Audibles at the Line: Week 12

New Orleans Saints RB Latavius Murray
New Orleans Saints RB Latavius Murray
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Andrew Potter

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those emails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these emails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Lions fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors solely to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Tennessee Titans 45 at Indianapolis Colts 26

Bryan Knowles: In the matchup two weeks ago, Derrick Henry only got 19 carries as Indianapolis led for most of the day. This isn't a "run to win" thing, but the Titans do like getting ahead and pounding Henry into defenses over and over again -- getting down early throws a kink into those plans. At least they'll start this game in the lead, as they take the ball and march straight down the field for the opening touchdown. Henry had five carries and the eventual touchdown; Ryan Tannehill was a perfect 4-for-4 on nothing but short passes, and the Colts were just on skates the entire drive. This game isn't quite all she wrote in the AFC South regardless of what happens; the Titans are close enough that they could recover to pass the Colts even if they lose the tiebreaker. Still, for maximum drama in the division, Tennessee needs the win today.

Bryan Knowles: What do we think of Jacoby Brissett, fourth-down quarterback? The Colts brought him again for a big fourth-and-1 from midfield, and Brissett rolled out and picked it up. Personally, I kind of like it -- Brissett isn't a great quarterback or anything, but he's a competent player and at least a justifiable threat to throw the ball. He hasn't done it yet, mind you, but it's got to be there in the back of defensive minds. It's not like the 3-million-year-old Philip Rivers is going to roll out and pick up the first down, right? And there's a clear plan of only bringing him in on fourth downs and goal-line situations, rather than doing it willy-nilly because they've got a new package they want to use. I'm on board.

The fourth-down pickup extends the drive, Rivers hits Jordan Wilkins on the next play for 20 yards to get the ball inside the 30, and they keep on marching until Trey Burton finds the end zone. All tied at seven as we approach the end of the first quarter.

Aaron Schatz: I'm a big fan of the idea of a short-yardage quarterback specialist. You need to be converting those plays, so whatever gives you the best chance to do so is a good idea. You just need to make sure you throw the ball occasionally to keep the defense on its heels.

Bryan Knowles: The Titans' first drive was methodical and effective. Their second drive not quite so much -- last year's YAC+ leader, A.J. Brown, takes a short little slant route and turns on the jets, untouched for 69 yards and a touchdown to give the Titans a 14-7 lead.

Anyone want to play defense in this one? If not, that's OK -- I can get behind a shootout today.

Scott Spratt: I like the third-down quarterback specialist in the scenarios we've seen it so far in the NFL -- specifically with Brissett and Taysom Hill substituting for Rivers and Drew Brees. But I wouldn't like it if teams did it for their younger quarterbacks because those are developmental downs, and having success on them isn't the only goal.

It's like when baseball teams make young, left-handed hitters into platoon-only players facing right-handed pitchers. You can't get better against left-handed pitchers if you never face them.

Vince Verhei: I agree with Aaron and Scott -- a short-yardage specialist QB makes sense for a team like the Colts, whose starter is plainly past his physical peak. I also agree with anyone who says that A.J. Brown is awesome. Just his weekly example of catching a single and turning it into a home run.

Tom Gower: Rivers' total lack of movement ability, even for rollouts, and no QB sneaks, takes so much away from the offense on short yardage that subbing in Brissett, an actual quarterback, is one thing. There are other scenarios that feel much more gimmicky.

Defense won hardly anything in the first 30 minutes of the first Titans-Colts game, so it's not a surprise that it's 14-7 after three possessions in this game, and the Colts are in field goal range after three plays in the fourth possession.

Bryan Knowles: The Titans defense failing to stop the Colts' offense makes sense; they're really quite bad. The Colts defense struggling the other way is the odd result; they're in the top five in DVOA, and in the top 10 against both the run and the pass.

And it's the Jacoby Brissett day -- a pass interference brings the ball down to the 1-yard line, so in comes Brissett, who runs and apparently scores a touchdown. I'm a bit dubious he got over the line, but it was confirmed, and we're tied at 14. I don't want to dismiss what Philip Rivers is doing; he has got a lot sharper since the season began and he hit Trey Burton and Nyheim Hines for some big plays on this drive, so it's not like the Colts are just pulling a trick out to replace an ineffective quarterback or things. I really like how Frank Reich is designing and calling this offense.

Dave Bernreuther: It feels like mere days ago that these two teams just played. In that game, Tannehill, Henry, and the Titans came out on fire, slicing through the Colts defense, and only an A.J. Brown drop kept them from what could have been a 17-3 lead. The Colts settled in, of course, and played like a dominant team the rest of the way. This time around, with DeForest Buckner, Denico Autry, and Bobby Okereke gone, domination is quite a bit less likely, but the offense is keeping pace with the Titans', which this time featured Brown hanging on to one and then romping for a 69-yard score. As if to answer the ongoing conversation about the Brissett package, Jacoby takes the field again in a goal-to-go situation and makes his case by earning a hard-fought touchdown.

It looks like the Titans' second score has been changed from a pass to Henry to a lateral, which surprises me, since that isn't something I noticed in real time. On their third drive, Darius Leonard gets a hand on a third-down pass attempt and we will see the game's first punt. Perhaps domination remains in the cards! (Knocks wood.)

Getting back to the Brissett conversation, it makes a ton of sense to me too, and that's coming from someone that thought that paying both him and Rivers was a huge waste of money. Rivers is notoriously averse to the sneak, which is an important short-yardage tool, and as Vince says, he's also past his physical peak. Heck, the last few years have made a very strong case that it's probably smart to keep him on a pitch count. For an offense that goes four-downs so often, to have a player like Brissett that can make the opponent defend sneaks (and outside runs, like the one that easily converted fourth down earlier) as well as the occasional deep throw -- and I wouldn't be even remotely surprised to see a play-action shot play out of that package in this or a future game -- is a huge advantage.

Bryan Knowles: Oh, backbreaker for Indy there. With these defenses, er, not at their sharpest, the Colts got a rare red zone stop. Holding your opponent to a field goal might be a win, the way this first quarter and a half has been going. But a late flag came in, and the Colts were flagged for illegal hands to the face, giving the Titans a new set of downs and a touchdown on the next play for the 21-14 Titans lead.

The non-Derrick Henry rushing leader against the Colts this season was Kareem Hunt, who had 72 yards back in October. Henry had 103 yards on those 19 carries last time around, and he's already up to 81 today. Henry is just a different beast out there.

Dave Bernreuther: I'm not sure I saw enough from the sideline angle to have thrown that flag on Rock Ya-Sin, but man, what a buzzkill after the third-down play, where they not only stopped them, but swarmed Tannehill for a sack that ensured a field goal attempt. That's a horrible four-point swing for the shorthanded defense, and it serves me right for thinking I could use that "D" word above and get away with it.

Derrick Henry just took off for 31, going over 100 for the half and 5,000 for his career. Different beast, indeed.

Vince Verhei: Worth noting that the Colts are down two starting defensive linemen (DeForest Buckner and Denico Autry) and a linebacker (Bobby Okereke). Henry, of course, is a different beast, but the Colts are trying to stop him without several key zookeepers. Or something.

Aaron Schatz: Out of curiosity, I went to check out the Derrick Henry halftime splits. It looks like being better in the second half is really a thing, at least in three of the last four years. Regular-season numbers only:

  • 2017 rushing DVOA: -13.6% before halftime, 7.9% after halftime
  • 2018 rushing DVOA: 25.6% before halftime, 20.8% after halftime
  • 2019 rushing DVOA: -13.5% before halftime, 21.5% after halftime
  • 2020 rushing DVOA before today: -2.7% before halftime, 31.8% after halftime

Dave Bernreuther: The Colts are probably wishing they had some tranquilizer darts, Vince...

An 11-yard touchdown run for Henry gives him three on the day and more rushing yards than Tannehill has pass yards. And Tannehill is playing well!

Bryan Knowles: Granted, Vince, but then, we could point out the Titans are missing Taylor Lewan, as well.

And Henry's up to 140 yards now, averaging over 8 yards per carry. He has three first-half touchdowns. The single-game rushing leader this season has to worry, as that's, uh ... Derrick Henry, at 212 yards against the Texans back in October.

Dave Bernreuther: And this is all just in the *first* half!

Scott Spratt: Last season, the Colts had the No. 18 DVOA run defense. This year, they have the No. 5 DVOA run defense. Should DeForest Buckner be a DPOY candidate?

Bryan Knowles: Mike Vrabel goes for the kill. With Henry getting a break for a series, the Titans have fourth-and-4 from the Colts' 38 with 31 seconds left. Kick the field goal, enjoy your 31-14 lead, right? No -- Tannehill bombs a shot to Corey Davis for 37 yards, and then Tannehill fakes the handoff to Henry and walks untouched into the end zone.

35-14 Titans at the half. It is not a shocker that Tennessee is winning. It's a shocker that it has been so one-sided. The Colts haven't allowed 400 yards to anyone yet this season; the Titans are up to 346 in the first half. Buckner isn't THAT important, is he?

Dave Bernreuther: Well he's really good. And Autry is too. So Henry going off is no big surprise; he was solid last time, and today is just the third 100-yard rusher the Colts have allowed in the last three years ... and all three are Henry. But they're not getting ANY pressure, save for the one play that got erased by the Ya-Sin penalty, not up the middle (understandable) or from the edges. And the Titans are playing a third-string tackle and two injured guys on the line too. I guess it's a trickle effect from the attention Buckner would get, but none of the other starters are winning one-on-ones along the line at all.

I'm a pessimistic fan and thus was on record earlier this year as doubting this defense ... but this is one of those games where I wish that we had more of an injury adjustment or way to asterisk it, because if this keeps up, it's going to be really unfair to their defensive DVOA and probably not very predictive at all. (Although as things stand right now, these teams are 4-5 in the conference, and their first-round game would be a rubber match...) This outcome doesn't exactly surprise me today -- and in fact I bet on it -- but I do still think we can mostly point to the starter they're missing. There's a reason they gave up a premium pick and $80 million for Buckner, and he has absolutely lived up to it through 10 games.

Tom Gower: 35-14 at the half, and the Colts defense has looked about as competitive as five touchdowns in six possessions suggests. With Buckner out, they moved Grover Stewart to Buckner's position and put their replacement in as the 1-tech. That doesn't seem to have worked, with Stewart not nearly the same factor he was in the first matchup. The issue for the Colts is that neither Stewart nor literally anybody else on their defense is winning any sort of one-on-one matchup on any play. It's like watching the 2006 Jaguars-Colts game where Jacksonville ran for a million yards.

The big change is not that the Titans kept scoring, but that the Colts did not. If I wanted to potentially overread into that, I'd say it's a factor of a Colts offense that isn't particularly explosive so they need to execute with consistency. They (well, Kevin Byard) actually tackled Nyheim Hines one-on-one in space to get the first third-down stop, the second one they actually targeted Michael Pittman (wide receivers haven't been much of a factor for the Colts so far) but couldn't connect, and the third one was set back by a holding penalty, and this offense isn't converting third-and-really long. Also, left tackle Anthony Castonzo left the game after the second possession. I haven't noticed a further update on his condition (questionable), but the downgrade to Le'Raven Clark has been noticeable.

Vince Verhei: The Titans scored more points in the first half than the Colts had given up in an entire game this year.

Tom Gower: Did I not write a second-half recap to sum up this game? I guess I did not, so time to rectify that.

In hindsight, the difference in this game was Anthony Castonzo's injury. When he left the game, the Colts had scored two touchdowns on as many possessions and had moved the ball with roughly as much success as they'd had in the first matchup between the two teams. After he was replaced by Clark, the offense cratered. I'll see if I can run the DVOA splits afterward, but I'd imagine the difference is going to be pretty stark, with a success rate difference in the neighborhood of 25%. Yes, really. It just stresses for me the fragile nature of the Indianapolis offense. Nyheim Hines was the key in the first game and he had some plays this game, and T.Y. Hilton is still fast, but Rivers can't take advantage of that speed and with Castonzo out and Ryan Kelly missing the game with a neck injury, the perfect pocket he needs to make quality throws just wasn't there. I did the Colts chapter when Frank Reich was hired and noted the Colts didn't have the sort of short-yardage playmakers to make that kind of shorter offense work to its highest potential. Guys like Hines and Mo Alie-Cox seem to fit, but the overall personnel does not that much. Throws like Zach Pascal running a post-corner route, just no, and Breon Borders had an easy interception when that happened. Another thing that stands out is Rivers' unwillingness to attempt to fit tight-window throws. This is probably a good idea given he can't drive the ball, but it does highlight some of the overall issues with the offense and why the Colts seem like such a limited team.

Tennessee's offense in the second half didn't find the same running room. I'm not sure if the Colts did anything too different, or if they just played better. Kind of funny that the Titans in both games played well on offense in the first half, were blah the first two drives of the second half, and then recovered reasonably, if not quite to the same level as before. Thanks to the first-half lead and the lack of special teams disasters, it didn't matter today like it did a couple weeks ago. The offense only had the one field goal, but with the Colts' lack of success on offense, the field goal on fourth-and-1 from the 26 and punt on fourth-and-2 from the Colts 39 don't bother me the way they would in other circumstances and just weren't that big a deal.

Overall, Mike Tanier wrote in Walkthrough before the first game that the Colts and Titans would both probably finish 1-2 in the key three-game stretch. Both teams actually recovered from double-digit deficits to win their tough game in the middle, but the split of their head-to-head games was an accurate call. The win today is key for the Titans, preventing the head-to-head sweep and leading the division with the Colts' season-opening loss to Jacksonville. I'm not sure how much we really learned today. If Indianapolis recovers well once they get Buckner, Autry, and Okereke back, it can mostly be written off, and the offense's limitations aren't really news. But this was a game Tennessee pretty much needed to have to avoid giving the Colts effectively a two-game lead in the division, and they got it.

Los Angeles Chargers 17 at Buffalo Bills 27

Scott Spratt: I wouldn't have thought it entering the season, but this game is a matchup between the No. 5 and No. 7 DVOA passing offenses. And passing motivated the Bills' opening-drive touchdown, even if it won't show up in the box score (sorry DeAndre Hopkins!). Stefon Diggs drew a 47-yard defensive pass interference penalty that set the Bills up with a first-and-goal from the 5-yard line, which Josh Allen converted on a pass to tight end Dawson Knox.

It's Diggs' 27th birthday, and that's a good way to celebrate.

Scott Spratt: Maybe one of the other Audible-ers can check me on this, but in my database of Sportradar data, I'm seeing that, of the 232 pass attempts of 40 or more air yards this season, 79 have been completed, 12 have drawn accepted defensive pass interference penalties, and just 16 have been intercepted. That's a 39% chance something really good happens and only a 7% chance something really bad happens. I like those odds!

With Sam Darnold back healthy for the Jets, Joe Flacco may have made his last career start. But his legacy lives on.

Dave Bernreuther: Odd statline in the early going in this one: Justin Herbert is completing only half of his passes, but he has thrown a ton of them, giving him a bunch of yards and a touchdown to Keenan Allen in traffic. Josh Allen, meanwhile, hit on 100% of his (four) attempts, but the Buffalo offense posted only 17 total yards while also getting into the end zone.

(This can all be explained by a huge DPI call drawn by Stefon Diggs, of course. I didn't love it, because it was a badly underthrown deep ball into traffic, but it's hard to argue against the contact. I just found the side-by-side quarterback comparison they put up on the screen amusing.)

To make things even more amusing, while I typed all that, the Bills notched their second passing touchdown of the day ... on a 20-yard pass from Cole Beasley. That'll give him the best of the three quarterbak lines of the day!

Scott Spratt: Here is video of Cole Beasley's touchdown pass, Dave.

Just searching for that on Twitter, I saw multiple jokes about how the Broncos wish he was their quarterback today. So I'll refrain.

Vince Verhei: Inside the red zone, Bills call a designed run to Josh Allen. Chargers snuff it out and he's corralled for a loss. In desperation, he lobs a pass to a receiver at the sideline, but it was a designed run, so that gets a penalty for linemen downfield. Worse, Allen is slow to get up and in obvious pain. Matt Barkley comes in on second down and is promptly sacked by an unblocked Joey Bosa. Allen returns for third-and-18, which turns into a third-and-23 after a false start. A screen to Devin Singletary then goes nowhere. Tyler Bass bails them out with a 45-yard field goal and a 17-6 lead, but that was not the best red zone drive I ever saw.

Chargers are doing a fine job of containing Allen -- he's at 60 net yards (including sack yardage) on 14 dropbacks, plus 15 yards on four runs. But the Bills are scoring anyway, and their own offense hasn't been sharp today.

Vince Verhei: Still 17-6 at halftime. Do want to mention the best news for the Chargers is that Austin Ekeler is back today, leading L.A. in both rushing (five carries for 25 yards) and receiving (six catches for 52 yards).

Bryan Knowles: Chargers aren't going down without a fight. Joshua Kelley, spelling the just-returned Austin Ekeler for a few plays, busts out a 33-yard run to get the Chargers back into the red zone, and then leaps over the line to move this to a 24-14 Bills lead late in the third. The response on Chargers Twitter? Annoyance that the fumble-prone Kelly stole a touchdown from Ekeler and/or Herbert. The things you care about when your season is toast, one supposes.

Vince Verhei: Chargers trail 24-14 in the fourth quarter with a fourth-and-1 at the Bills' 25. They go for it and run what looks like a read option out of the pistol, but the Bills are blitzing everyone up the A-gaps at the snap and also have a man on the perimeter to watch Herbert. That play fails 99 times out of 100; Herbert needed to audible to a pass or something. As it is, Kelley is stuffed for no gain.

No matter, though, because two plays later Devin Singletary fumbles the ball right back to them near midfield. A roughing the passer call on Ed Oliver converts a third down and gives them a first down in the red zone. A pitch to Kelley loses yards on third-and-1 -- a reminder that Kelley has been by far the worst runner in the league this year. The Chargers line up to go for it on fourth-and-4, then call timeout and kick the field goal. That's some classic Anthony Lynn game management there, but the kick is good and the Chargers are very much in this thing, down 24-17 with more than 10 minutes to go.

Scott Spratt: The Bills were cruising up 24-14, but they've lost fumbles on two of their last three plays. Suddenly, the Chargers are driving with nine minutes in the fourth quarter to try to tie this up.

Aaron Schatz: So, the Chargers' clock management at the end of the game. They have no timeouts at this point and need two scores.

  • 1:14 left: Hail Mary, caught, but offensive pass interference.
  • 1:00 left: Hail Mary on fourth-and-27, CAUGHT AGAIN at the Buffalo 2. at this point it takes 35 seconds for all the Chargers and Bills to make it downfield to the new line of scrimmage.
  • 25 seconds left: HANDOFF ?!?!?! The Chargers didn't want an incomplete pass to maybe stop the clock???
  • 8 seconds left: incomplete pass but at this point there's no time for two scores, the game is over.
  • Then two incomplete passes and a QB sneak to try to score a pointless touchdown that ended up losing 2 yards.

Chargers should have spiked the ball after the Hail Mary and either tried for the end zone or gone for the field goal-onside kick-another Hail Mary combo.

Andrew Potter: The entire past decade and a half of Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers football can be summed up in one play:

New York Giants 19 at Cincinnati Bengals 17

Scott Spratt: My friend is walking the line between genius and insanity by selecting the Giants as his third NFC East team this year in our eliminator league. I have no idea how he has made it this far. But after the Giants went up 7-0 against Brandon Allen and the Bengals, I texted him that that lead may be insurmountable. Apparently not:

That's Brandon Wilson on the return, so possible big day for Brandons on the Bengals. But the funny thing is the Giants entered today with the No. 4 DVOA special teams. They were 24th and 28th in offense and defense.

Bryan Knowles: Daniel Jones is hurt, grabbing at the back of his leg. That seems like a hamstring issue; hopefully, nothing too serious. Colt McCoy is in, which reminds me that Colt McCoy is somehow still in the league.

Dave Bernreuther: I grew up a Giants fan, most of my friends are Giants fans, and I live with a genius that is a fan of both a bitter rival and all things Texas/Austin ... and I had NO idea that Colt McCoy was the Giants backup, let alone still in the league.

Bryan Knowles: Don't put this one away just yet -- Tee Higgins just caught a score to make this a 19-17 game with 2:33 left.

Fun fact about the Giants: depending on how you count Mitchell Trubisky, this is the sixth game in which the Giants have played the majority of the game against their opponent's backup quarterback -- Trubisky, Nick Mullens, Andy Dalton, K.Allen, Alex Smith, and now B.Allen. That explains a little bit how they'll be in playoff position with a win.

Miami Dolphins 20 at New York Jets 3

Vince Verhei: Today is the first time all year that the Jets have had Sam Darnold and his top three wide receivers -- Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman, and Denzel Mims -- on the field at the same time. Early results are encouraging. At the end of the first quarter, Darnold is 5-of-6 for 84 yards against a good pass defense in Miami. The game is tied 3-3, but the Jets have the ball and are driving near midfield.

But they go no farther -- Darnold throws incomplete on third-and-4 and the Jets will punt.

Bryan Knowles: "This is where all the armchair quarterbacks would throw the ball into the end zone. But you have to give your team the best chance to win; make it a one-score game."

This was the announcers in the Jets-Dolphins game. The situation: the Jets are down 13-3 with three seconds left in the half. They face a fourth-and-1 from the Miami 11. They eschew going for it, and kick the safe 29-yard field goal.

Which sails wide right. Still 13-3.

Scott Spratt: At least Sam Ficken could blame his two missed extra-point attempts last week on an injured groin, Bryan.

Vince Verhei: Remember Darnold's hot start? Yeah, never mind. In the second quarter he went 4-of-9 for only 45 yards. Dolphins lead 13-3 at halftime as Ryan Fitzpatrick is carrying the offense -- he has already thrown 22 passes (for 180 yards and a touchdown) while the Dolphins have only six runs for 16 yards. Mike Gesicki's 13-yard touchdown on a corner route on third-and-8 is the biggest play in the game so far.

Vince Verhei: Darnold's decline since the first quarter continues.

Dave Bernreuther: The call on that Darnold pick almost makes up for the field goal comment before half. "… throws on the run, and a TERRIBLE PASS..."

Vince Verhei: The Jets had a chance to get back into this after a Patrick Laird fumble gave them the ball deep in Miami territory early in the fourth quarter. Darnold was sacked on second down, though, and his third-down completion came up a yard short of the sticks. Down 13-3 at the time, I might have forgiven Adam Gase for kicking a field goal there. Instead he handed off to Frank Gore, who was hit in the backfield for no gain.

After an exchange of punts, Ryan Fitzpatrick hit his second third-down touchdown pass to a tight end today -- this one to Adam Shaheen -- to put Miami up 20-3 with less than seven minutes to go and pretty much end this one. The game has never felt close, but it really has been and has come down to red zone performance. The Dolphins have turned two red zone drives into two touchdowns; the Jets have three red zone tries and have hit one field goal, missed another, and turned the ball over on downs.

Arizona Cardinals 17 at New England Patriots 20

Aaron Schatz: Patriots go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Arizona 7 and pitch to James White for a touchdown run, that makes it 10-7 Arizona. The Cardinals are doing a good job of not falling for Patriots' misdirection tactics, in particular staying home to stuff a couple of end arounds. But the touchdown drive was helped along by a somewhat iffy "lowering the head" penalty on Isaiah Simmons. Patriots were getting iffy run blocking from replacement left tackle Jermaine Eluemunor and have replaced him with rookie Justin Herron. We'll have to see if that's a replacement or just some sort of rotation.

For Arizona: Cardinals scored early when Cam Newton had a tipped pass intercepted on the first drive, and the Cardinals had an easy short field. Their second drive went 63 yards and a field goal with most of the completions coming pretty easily but the Patriots keeping Kyler Murray contained on the runs.

Cale Clinton: Kyler Murray makes every play look like street ball.

Aaron Schatz: We go to halftime still at 10-7 Cardinals. Huge fourth-down stop by the Patriots after a pretty easy 71-yard drive by the Cardinals. But the Cardinals had a touchdown overturned on third-and-goal when it was determined that KeeSean Johnson had his knee down before he reached into the end zone. Then on fourth-and-goal with 3 seconds left, the Cardinals went heavy and just ran Kenyan Drake into the A-gap. Lawrence Guy occupied two blockers which left Ja'Whaun Bentley stuff Drake before he got to the goal line. And since the quarter was over, the Cardinals don't even get the benefit of the Patriots getting the ball back in a negative-EPA situation backed up on their own goal line.

Patriots are hemming in the Arizona run game but the pass plays are there. DeAndre Hopkins is winning his battle with Stephon Gilmore so far. On the other side, Patriots offense just doesn't look good. How often can you run the ball on second-and-long? Cam Newton is 3-for-8 right now.

Vince Verhei: It wasn't a big play in this game, but the Patriots had a first-and-10 where they came out in an "offset I" with Cam Newton taking a shotgun snap and a fullback in a three-point stance in front of him and to his right. Newton just followed the lead blocker up the gut for a 9-yard gain. It was beautiful in its simplicity, and a big reason Newton has run for a team-high 23 yards.

That's the good news. The bad news is that he's having a horrid day as a passer -- 3-of-8 for 37 yards with an interception and two sacks.

Cale Clinton: New England's defense has shown flashes of the old "bend-don't-break" moniker stapled to their unit prior to the highs of 2018 and 2019. The Patriots allowed Arizona's lone touchdown of the first half on short field position -- their own 23-yard-line -- after a Cam Newton pick on the opening drive.

Beyond that, they've kept the Cardinals offense relatively in check. Kyler Murray did post 131 first-half yards through the air, completing 14 of 20 passes in the process, but the Patriots defense has done a good job keeping him contained in the run game. Stephon Gilmore sniffed out Kyler's lone designed run for a 2-yard loss. RBSDM has Arizona, who we rate as the sixth-best rushing offense per weighted DVOA, currently posting a -0.32 EPA/play on 15 plays in through the first half. The Cardinals' three offensive drives following the touchdown ended in a fourth-and-12 field goal, a fourth-and-11 punt, and a turnover on downs on New England's 1-yard-line, complete with an overturned touchdown on third down and a goal-line stand that stuffed Kenyan Drake for no gain.

Aaron Schatz: Rules experts, please explain to me how this block right in a punt gunner's face is a "blindside block."

Bryan Knowles: From the rule book, It is a foul if a player initiates a block when his path is toward or parallel to his own end line and makes forcible contact to his opponent with his helmet, forearm, or shoulder.

I think Anfernee Jennings (58) stopped before making the hit, and I don't know how the NFL defines "path." It seems a questionable call for me, but it may be correct by the letter of the rule.

Cale Clinton: The Patriots have an 82-yard punt return touchdown by Gunner Olszewski taken off the board because of an illegal crackback penalty Not the best angle, but Jennings seems to be making a block on a guy with a realistic chance of preventing the score. Maybe it was the theatrics of the hit.

Aaron Schatz: OK, apparently that block *is* illegal because you aren't allowed to block towards your own end zone. It's just that the penalty is badly named as "illegal blindside" because it's not a blindside block at all.

Vince Verhei: Fair or not, it turns out to be a monster penalty, because New England stalls in the red zone and gets a game-tying field goal instead of a go-ahead touchdown.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots take a 17-10 lead when they get their own tipped-pass interception at the line of scrimmage. We've all been joking about what's going to happen with the Broncos later today but this was the Patriots scoring drive: 18-yard run with a huge hole, 6-yard run, 6-yard power run by Cam Newton, failed sneak, failed handoff from a heavy 7OL set, and finally a pitch to the outside where James White found the pylon. That last one was a three-wide set. See, try spreading things a little bit and stop the defense from going heavy, and you're more likely to score in short yardage! It works in Madden too, you know.

Cale Clinton: A costly drive for the Patriots defense, as two key pieces to their defense goes down. J.C. Jackson limped to the sideline, while Adrian Phillips went down the very next play.

Bryan Knowles: The Cardinals just ran nine consecutive plays inside the red zone, helped out by a pair of holding penalties by New England. The Patriots did a decent job defending, but if you get that many cracks from that close to the goal line, it's really only a matter of time. We're tied at 17.

Aaron Schatz: Cardinals finally getting good run blocking on that drive.

Aaron Schatz: Cam Newton just threw inside as Damiere Byrd went outside and the Cardinals have their second interception and will take over in a tie game at midfield with four minutes left.

Aaron Schatz: Cardinals get one first down with three short plays, then stall out. Zane Gonzalez honks a 45-yard field goal and we've still got a tie game.

Aaron Schatz: The decision to kick a field goal cost the Cardinals 20% Game-Winning Chance according to the EdjSports model. A 45-yard field goal is not a gimme, and as Michael Lopez from the NFL pointed out on Twitter, it's more difficult to kick in the Patriots' lighthouse/open end zone than in the closed end zone on the other side.

Patriots take the ball back and Cam Newton scrambles out of bounds right past the marker to convert third-and-13 ... and adds on 15 yards with a questionable personal foul on Simmons. It looks like he hit Newton when Newton was still in bounds, but he did have a slight helmet-to-helmet hit on Newton. Was that the reason they called the penalty? It puts the Patriots into very long field goal range. The Patriots gain 7 yards on a couple plays then take the clock down to three seconds, and Nick Folk comes in. He hits a 50-yard field goal in the easier end zone, and the Patriots come away with the 20-17 upset.

Dave Bernreuther: I was really rooting for the Cam Newton Patriots this year. Like, a lot. I have always found much of the criticism of him to be unfounded (if not downright racist) and was super excited to see how Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick would combine their cleverness and love of history to create a dominant 11-on-11 run game (after showing since 2018 that they could grind out yards even 10-on-11), plus I hated Newton's injury luck and wanted to see him come back as a passer as well. This is a weird thing for a Colts fan to say, but there was no bigger Patriots and Cam Newton fan this year than me.

That pick he threw to Dre Kirkpatrick just made me hang my head in defeat. It wasn't pressure. Wasn't foot placement, wasn't a bad route, wasn't wind, wasn't a great defensive play ... it was a nicely thrown pass to the completely wrong spot. And it put the Cardinals in position to win the game. It stands as the third end-game giveaway for Newton this season. It's too late to blame COVID, or even the lack of preseason ... it makes me finally join the crowd of people wondering: is Cam Newton just not good anymore?


Zane Gonzalez honks an easy kick! The Patriots get a gift! And now Newton (who I should also mention has thrown only 16 passes, which is funny in the context of us wondering about pass attempts for the Broncos, and also has given him fewer pass yards and attempts than Justin Herbert had in the Chargers' first two drives) has a chance to drive the Patriots down the field to win it. Aided by a personal foul at the end of a Newton run, Nick Folk hits another game-winner as time expires. And I am now two-for-two today in immediately jinxing a team as soon as I start talking about them.

Cale Clinton: Per Ryan Hannable of WEEI, New England's 179 yards of offense were the third-fewest total yards for a Belichick-led Patriots team.

Carolina Panthers 27 at Minnesota Vikings 28

Scott Spratt: Teddy Bridgewater's backup P.J. Walker threw two interceptions in the red zone last week that didn't hurt the Panthers in their shutout of the Lions. Well, Bridgewater did the same on his third drive today with linebacker Eric Kendricks cutting off running back Mike Davis' slant route.

The Vikings are facing some adversity today with Adam Thielen and Irv Smith both out, the former because of an apparent false-positive COVID test. But already up 7-0, the Vikings are well positioned to ride Dalvin Cook to a win in a positive game script for their preferred offensive approach.

Cale Clinton: Not the most exciting game thus far. Minnesota's first offensive drive of the afternoon was a modestly constructed 13-play, 63-yard touchdown drive to Justin Jefferson, but that's really all. Carolina punted on its first two drives, Minnesota went three-and-out on their second drive. The Panthers offense pushed the ball all the way down to Minnesota's 12-yard-line before throwing an interception with a ball into traffic. The Vikings moved the ball 18 yards, then punted.

The Panthers offense has been run-heavy, while Teddy Bridgewater currently sits at 2-for-9 for 21 yards and the interception. Meanwhile, the Vikings have failed to find any rushing success outside of a 9-yard Kirk Cousins scramble to pick up a first down. Dalvin Cook is averaging 2.9 yards on eight carries, with RBSDM's box score calculating Minnesota's rush EPA/play at -0.18.

Scott Spratt: Ifeadi Odenigbo was one of the 2020 Almanac's top prospects, but I'm guessing Rivers didn't select the defensive end for that list because of his coverage skills. I'm not sure I've ever seen a 41-yard catch-and-run touchdown as easy as Robby Anderson's one there.

Scott Spratt: Broadcast analyst and former linebacker Jonathan Vilma just said that Kirk Cousins is a linebacker trapped in a quarterback's body. I think it's best to leave it to your imagination as to what context that comment came from.

Scott Spratt: I'm not sure Cousins showed his linebacker mentality on this strip-sack. He seemed to just drop the ball without a fight.

That Jeremy Chinn return touchdown puts the Panthers up 14-10. And for those of you who checked out on the Panthers when they fell from playoff contention, I'll just point out that he's a defensive rookie of the year candidate.

Scott Spratt: I promise I hadn't seen the subsequent play when I typed that previous note on Chinn.

Of course, more important than that second defensive score is Dalvin Cook's status. He's down on the field after being caught in that scrum.

Scott Spratt: For the record, that was two defensive touchdowns for Jeremy Chinn in 10 seconds of game time.

Scott Spratt: Two big developments for the Vikings. First, they blocked a Panthers' field goal attempt to remain within 11 points down 21-10. And second, Dalvin Cook is back on the field.

Scott Spratt: Ugh, I just realized that the 4-7 Panthers would be one win behind the Cardinals for the final NFC wild-card spot if they won and the Cardinals lost today. The Panthers are currently up 21-13 over the Vikings, and the Cardinals are currently down 17-10 against the Patriots. Is head-to-head record the first wild-card tiebreaker, guys? The Panthers beat the Cardinals back in Week 4.

To think I nearly had a stress-free NFL fan season.

Bryan Knowles: Head-to-head is the tiebreaker in a two-way tie. If more than one team is tied, then it has to be a head-to-head sweep, otherwise it moves on, and the Panthers' conference record isn't great.

With so many teams ahead of Carolina, I may advise waiting a week or two before studying those tiebreakers too closely. ;)

Scott Spratt: Well, with both the playoffs and a top college quarterback out of reach, Bryan, I guess I'll just sit here?

Bryan Knowles: I'm not saying give up! I've still got half an eye on a "49ers run the table and steal a wild-card slot" potential myself! It's just that the Panthers' playoff hopes are based a lot more on just winning out than the specifics of tiebreakers.

Scott Spratt: Speaking of rookie of the year candidates, watch Justin Jefferson break Stanley Thomas-Oliver's ankles while scoring his second touchdown of the day.

The Vikings went for and converted a fourth-and-1 on that drive and went for and converted a two-point conversion after Jefferson's touchdown. Now they are down just 24-21 with four minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Scott Spratt: Mike Davis versus 258-pound defensive end D.J. Wonnum.


Vince Verhei: Scott, how has Jefferson looked? He has been the league-leader in DYAR all year, but that may be because defenses have been focused on Adam Thielen, who has 17 more targets this season. Today, with Thielen inactive, Jefferson has only six catches for 55 yards in 11 targets (granted, with two touchdowns). Has Jefferson looked like a top-flight wideout this afternoon, or a product of Minnesota's circumstances?

Scott Spratt: I've been very impressed by Jefferson, Vince, both this afternoon and in general this season. He just has an impressive array of ways to get open. He combines slot receiver short-area quickness with outside receiver size and athleticism

Of course, if the Vikings lose this game, they can definitely blame their fumbling. In addition to the two Chinn return touchdowns earlier, they just muffed a punt to put the Panthers in the red zone with two minutes to go already up 24-21.

Scott Spratt: The Panthers are kicking a field goal to go up 27-21 with 1:54 left on a fourth-and-goal from the Vikings' 3-yard line. Thoughts guys?

Dave Bernreuther: The Panthers have the ball at the 3, up three, with under two minutes left and the Vikings out of timeouts. Why on EARTH would you kick that field goal and then give them a four-down drive starting at the 25? What a terrible decision to kick that. I'd rather go for it and fail and leave them there than have those three points!

Scott Spratt: Maybe Matt Rhule's plan was to kick that field goal so the Panthers could later kick a game-winning field goal after the Vikings scored really fast? Because Cousins just did that. It's 28-27 Vikings with 46 seconds left.

Bryan Knowles: Never, ever kick the field goal to go up six. Sorry, Scott.

Minnesota gets the ball and marches right down the field, covering 80 yards in just 1:05. They're sitting on a one-point lead with 46 seconds left.

Aaron Schatz: Never, ever kick the field goal that goes up by six. Panthers should have gone for fourth-and-goal on the 3.

Scott Spratt: Update: Teddy Bridgewater just connected with Curtis Samuel for 35 yards. The ball is at midfield with 25 seconds left. The clock stopped for a Vikings injury.

Is it better for the Panthers to win or lose? That has been the question this entire Panthers season.

Scott Spratt: Also, Joey Slye better warm up for another 60-plus-yard game-winning field goal try.

Bryan Knowles: And now, Bridgewater is hurt! This has been one of the strangest finishes I've ever seen.

Scott Spratt: Slye's 54-yard effort for the win...


I'm looking for a video, but every video on Twitter is of a shanked golf shot or something metaphoric. It was way left.

Scott Spratt: Found the Slye kick!

On second watch, it was still bad.

Cale Clinton: Adam Thielen, inactive this afternoon while on the COVID list, got to watch the chaos unfold from the comfort of his home:

Cleveland Browns 27 at Jacksonville Jaguars 25

Bryan Knowles: The Browns are having trouble with the one-win Jaguars. Mike Glennon, starting his first game since 2017, hasn't been a disaster, and James Robinson is effective on the ground. Baker Mayfield, on the other hand, missed one of the easiest touchdown passes you'll ever see -- NextGen Stats had it as an 86% chance to be completed.

There's no weather or anything to blame for that today; that's all Mayfield. Now, the Browns are winning, going up 17-13 after Mayfield hit Austin Hooper for a score, but you'd hope a seven-win team would be looking sharper against a one-win team, wouldn't you?

Bryan Knowles: Upset alert! The Jaguars got bailed out by a questionable roughing the passer call on fourth down, giving the Jags a new chance at life. They use it and score a James Robinson touchdown, but the two-point conversion fails, and the Browns will get the ball back still up 27-25. The Jags have all three timeouts and the two-minute warning, however...

Bryan Knowles: The Jaguars force a third-and-12, and the Browns do a give-up handoff to Nick Chubb to make the Jags waste their last timeout ... and Chubb just bursts through everyone to pick up the first down anyway. Browns somehow escape with a win.

Las Vegas Raiders 6 at Atlanta Falcons 43

Scott Spratt: It doesn't sound like this game struck anyone as one of the likely good watches of the early slate, but the Falcons are poised to play spoiler up 16-3 at halftime even without Julio Jones. Can a potential playoff team have a worse run of one drive on defense and two quarters than the Raiders have just had, first losing that Chiefs rematch on a classic Patrick Mahomes game-winning drive and now potentially losing to a 3-7 Falcons team that will forfeit the Raiders' current standing as an AFC wild-card team?

Vince Verhei: It's also Thanksgiving weekend -- just about time for Atlanta's annual "too little, too late" rally in the second half of the season.

Scott Spratt: Honestly, Vince, I think that run already started. The Falcons are 3-2 since they started 0-5 and fired Dan Quinn.

Bryan Knowles: I know it's an early start across the country, but the Raiders look terrible. Derek Carr just tried a jump-pass under pressure; that worked just about as well as you might expect. Deion Jones snags it out of the air and races 67 yards for an easy touchdown to give the Falcons a 23-3 lead. It's not quite game-over or anything, but if the Raiders can't figure out a way to get on the same page, this would be a huge blow to their playoff chances.

Cale Clinton: The Raiders' third turnover of the afternoon may be their ugliest yet

Scott Spratt: That pick-six was eerily similar to the one Jones returned on Jameis Winston to win in overtime in Week 17 last year, Bryan. Jones even celebrated with the same ball flourish en route to the end zone.

New Orleans Saints 31 at Denver Broncos 3

Aaron Schatz: I hope we have someone watching the Broncos! It's gonna be wild.

Andrew Potter: They're playing my Saints, so I'll be on that unless it gets out of hand early.

Cale Clinton: And I'll be there for when it gets out of hand.

Tom Gower: I'm envisioning something like the Bears' Caleb Hanie game where they punted every possession. With the short amount of time to prepare Hinton, I doubt they do anything particularly interesting. That's particularly the case since they're not a strong contender for the playoffs and are facing the Saints, a better team and an unfamiliar foe.

Carl Yedor: This game should put an end to most hypothetical discussions from washed high school athletes about their ability to consistently complete passes in an NFL game. Kendall Hinton was a backup quarterback at Wake Forest but moved to wide receiver later in his career. The scenario with the Broncos being unable to sign a free-agent quarterback in time feels a lot like a high school situation where you can't magically find quarterbacks to plop into your offense and have to put the kid in who can physically throw the best, regardless of whether he's any good. To be clear, Hinton is an NFL-level athlete (even though he's not a quarterback), and Denver will likely be running a conservative offense. But I'm actually pretty excited for this game. It could get ugly quickly, but it's something we almost never see.

Bryan Knowles: Let's set up some expectations and targets for Broncos-Saints. With all four Broncos quarterbacks out due to COVID concerns and Taysom Hill starting for New Orleans, the NFL records for pass attempts in a game are in jeopardy today.

The all-time NFL record for fewest attempts in a game for both teams combined is four. That record is safe. The record since the merger, however, is another story. That's 16, set by Archie Manning and Jim Plunkett in a Saints-49ers game in 1977. I really think that has got an outside shot at falling.

The record for fewest passes in a game in the 21st century? That sits at 27, shared by Cody Pickett vs. Kyle Orton the 2005 49ers-Bears game, played in a massive windstorm, and Chris Weinke vs. Michael Vick in the 2006 Panthers-Falcons game. I would be very surprised if that record does not fall.

Scott Spratt: Those records weren't on my mind, Bryan, but I projected Hinton for 11.5 pass attempts in the Football Outsiders weekly projections. It could be like a snow game without snow!

Cale Clinton: We've got Kendall Hinton warm-up throws!

Vince Verhei: Your reminder that Kendall Hinton has thrown a touchdown pass more recently than Taysom Hill.

For what it's worth, I ran a Twitter poll about the pass attempts in this game. By about two-to-one, the results were that yes, there would be at least 20 pass attempts between the two teams.

Carl Yedor: The Broncos got one first down on their opening drive, but their only pass attempt fell incomplete on a third down. So far, their run plays have been direct snaps to the running back, which is likely out of necessity but also seems like a pretty clear tell regarding who is going to be carrying the ball. Obviously, they had next to no time to prepare for this, so it's out of necessity. Regardless, this should be a fun watch for football nerds, even if points may be at a premium.

Scott Spratt: I'm just getting this one on a screen, but it looks like the Broncos are mostly just direct-snapping the ball to their running backs. Honestly, I wouldn't hate the strategy for them against the Saints even if Drew Lock were available.

Vince Verhei: As Scott noted, Denver's offense today is almost entirely direct snaps to running backs, with Hinton coming on for bomb-or-scramble plays on third downs. The results: one first down in three possessions, all punts. Hinton is 0-for-2 with a near-interception (Marshon Lattimore caught the pass but couldn't stay in bounds).

Mind you, things are hardly any better for New Orleans. In five dropbacks, Hill has gained 5 yards on two completions and lost 13 yards on two sacks. Their best play in the first 14 minutes or so came when they lined up on fourth-and-1 and actually got the Broncos to jump offsides for a first down. But Alvin Kamara runs for 15 yards on the last play of the territory for a first down, the first time either team has crossed midfield today.

Vince Verhei: As our old colleague Michael David Smith points out, this means the Broncos actually have more passing yards after one quarter than the Saints do.

Vince Verhei: Following that Kamara run, the Saints open the second quarter with eight straight runs, the last of them Hill scoring a touchdown on a walk-in sweep on third-and-goal from the 1. He also had a conversion on third-and-4 on a dive play out of shotgun. Saints are now up to 81 yards on 16 rushes, -8 yards on five pass plays.

Dave Bernreuther: And now that they're up a touchdown, the Saints would do well to not attempt another pass all game.

I've spent plenty of time in plenty of venues pointing to the in-division QB/opponent luck that Tom Brady has gotten for his career. Until a week ago I thought that was due to continue, as Drew Brees got hurt while the Bucs were within a game ... but it's fair to say that this game is a huge dose of terrible luck for Brady. Because there's nothing too great about this Hill-led offense, and the Broncos are good enough that if they got a decent game out of Lock this could've been an upset. Now? Not so much.

Right now what I'm most curious about is if this game's first half will end before Tampa Bay's first quarter.

Carl Yedor: New Orleans gets on the board courtesy of a quarterback sweep from Taysom Hill. This game is every super old school football coach's dream. There have been five pass attempts so far compared to 25 total carries. Would I want this every week? Absolutely not. Neither team's offense is playing well, but it's still entertaining to a neutral observer that doesn't need a gazillion points on the board in every game.

Dave Bernreuther: Hinton's third pass is also into the hands of a defender, and is again dropped, this time by Janoris Jenkins.

His fourth pass is straight into the turf, nowhere near his receiver.

This is already past the point of novelty amusement. It hurts to watch. Four drives, four punts, little prayer of success.

Andrew Potter: We're midway through the second quarter in Denver, and for me, the novelty value has well and truly worn off. This is unspeakably awful football. I'm reneging on my previous commitment and switching to RedZone.

Vince Verhei: ARRRGGGHH, this game. Saints go three-and-out on a short run, an incomplete pass on a screen (with an illegal man downfield, declined), and another screen, which LOSES 2 yards on third-and-long.

Neither of these teams are fielding NFL-caliber offenses today. The Broncos' hand has been forced by circumstance. The Saints are handicapping themselves by choice.

Scott Spratt: The Broncos don't have a completion with 3:54 left in the first half. Fittingly, the broadcast just flashed that the last team who went without a completion in a first half was also the Broncos, on November 13, 2011. That has to be Tim Tebow, right?

Dave Bernreuther: Handy Fox graphic tells us that the last team with no completions in a first half was ... the Tim Tebow era Broncos in 2011. (Surely this will spark a completion.)

(Or a fumble. Great tackle by Garett Bolles to atone for his earlier holding call and prevent the touchdown!)

Bryan Knowles: Yeah, that's a Tebow 2-for-8 day. Vintage Tim Tebow.

Scott Spratt: FYI, I just looked it up and the Broncos won that game 17-10 over the Chiefs. Bad teams should intentionally do this all the time.

Vince Verhei: Denver's 10th direct snap of the day to a running back never actually gets there as Lloyd Cushenberry botches the snap and Kwon Alexander recovers for the Saints in the red zone. The Saints then inexplicably go pass-wacky as Hill throws the ball on four straight snaps. That results in two incompletions and two short catches, though Adam Trautman does convert a third down on -- what else? -- a screen pass. That sets up Hill's own touchdown run, his second of the day, and a 14-0 lead that may as well be 140-0.

With seconds to go, the Broncos let Hinton try a deep ball, but it's 5 yards short of DaeSean Hamilton and the Saints finally get an interception, this one by Jenkins. Hill finally -- finally! -- completes a pass downfield, hitting Michael Thomas for a 22-yard gain in the middle of Denver's zone. That lets Wil Lutz hit a 40-yard field goal at the gun for a 17-0 lead at halftime. Saints are also getting the ball to start the second half.

Hill is now up to 6-of-11 for 38 yards with two sacks. Hinton is 0-for-7 with an interception. NFL football!

Carl Yedor: Never say never obviously, but this one looks done at halftime barring a miracle. At this point, Denver has to consider it a success if they can complete a pass. Goes to show just how hard it is to play quarterback in the NFL.

Bryan Knowles: We're at 18 passes at the half. That means the post-merger record for pass attempts is safe; football in the 1970s was a different beast entirely. Nine passes in the second half to beat the Pickett-Orton 21st century record seems likely, too, considering the Broncos' play calling to this point. So we turn elsewhere for history.

No team has been held without a pass completion since 1960, when Ralph Guglielmi and MC Reynolds combined to go 0-for-7 for Washington. One-fer days have certainly happened, most recently by Cody Pickett in that 2005 game we've talked about before, but we haven't had a zero-day since the merger. You would think that is a matter of choice -- a simple jet sweep or something would give the Broncos that much-needed completion.

Bryan Knowles: They did it! They did it! Hinton with the throwback to Noah Fant, and the Broncos have a completion!

Vince Verhei: Hinton's next pass after his first completion results in his second interception. No problem, because Hill follows by going incomplete, sack, interception on third-and-12. Broncos then kick a field goal without picking up a first down to make it 17-3.

Vince Verhei: This may be the last offensive highlight we see today, so let's all appreciate Latavius Murray's vision, cutback ability, and burst on this long touchdown run.

Vince Verhei: Another Murray touchdown run makes it 31-3 Saints. With the game won, Hill is pulled from the game so Jameis Winston can spend the rest of the afternoon handing off.

Hill finishes the game with 78 passing yards, an interception, and three sacks (and, of course, two rushing touchdowns).

Vince Verhei: Broncos finish the game with the one completion for 13 yards, and 1 yard lost on a sack. That's 12 net passing yards, the fewest since 2016, when Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick combined for 39 yards on five completions ... and 33 yards lost on six sacks.

San Francisco 49ers 23 at Los Angeles Rams 20

Bryan Knowles: Deebo Samuel is playing his first game in three weeks; Raheem Mostert is back from longer than that. The 49ers just had a drive which went 33-yard end-around to Samuel, 3-yard Mostert run, 26-yard pass to Samuel, 8-yard Mostert touchdown.

It turns out, and this is a shock, having offensive players healthy helps an offense. 49ers out to a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter.

Vince Verhei: The Rams just ran a draw to Malcolm Brown on third-and-20, down 7-3 in the second quarter.

Jared Goff is being paid more than $22 million this year.

Vince Verhei: Third-and-2, Goff throws behind Robert Woods on a curl. Coverage was tight and Goff had to throw away from the defender, but Woods had zero chance to catch that ball.

And Sean McVay is calling runs when he should pass and passes when he should run.

Vince Verhei: Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area sums up this first half better than I could:

"Through one half … Jared Goff: 11-of-16 for 107 yards with no TDs, 1 INT, and a passer rating of 61.2. Nick Mullens: 11-of-16 for 110 yards with no TDs, 1 INT, and a passer rating of 62.0."

I will add that Goff has also lost a fumble. And that Mullens is making $750,000 this year -- about 3% or 4% of Goff's paycheck.

Bryan Knowles: I'd also sum it up as "Robert Saleh auditioning for the Detroit coaching job" -- he's from Michigan, after all.

And, as I type that, Goff hits Javon Kinlaw right in the numbers, and Kinlaw runs the interception right back for the score. To be fair, Goff was hit while he was throwing, but still -- yikes. 49ers up 14-3 early as the third quarter begins.

Vince Verhei: This was Goff's first pass of the second half. Yes, he's getting hit -- which he knew, and instead of taking the sack, he forced a duck into triple coverage. This is his fifth NFL season.

Bryan Knowles: This is the last competitive game of the day, and it just became a lot MORE competitive. Aaron Donald can't defend the run, right? Well, he just blew up Colton McKivitz, the fifth-round rookie forced to start today. Donald has been destroying McKivitz all day, and this time, it lets him force a Raheem Mostert fumble. Troy Hill scoops it up and scores, and we have a 17-13 49ers lead late in the third quarter...

Vince Verhei: Aaron Donald, average run defender.

Bryan Knowles: Aaron Donald followed up that fumble by blowing up the 49ers on multiple times on their next drive, but San Francisco was at least able to hang on to the football to punt and flip the field position. Didn't end up mattering, however -- Cam Akers had a 68-yard run to set up a touchdown a few plays later. The Rams were down 17-3 at one point; now they have a 20-17 lead as the fourth quarter begins.

Scott Spratt: I know you're playing it for laughs, but I think the case that ESPN article made for Donald being an average run defender was that he over-pursued for assumed pass plays and so allowed big holes for big running plays more than a typical player at his position. It wasn't that he failed to make impact plays against the run or even did so less than other defenders.

I don't watch enough Rams to argue it one way or another, but I feel compelled to defend the possibility the research is right because the plays that would support it would never stick in one's mind the way the ones that refute it do. I feel like those jokes follow the same line of thinking that anti-analytics people have when they see a fourth-and-short attempt fail to convert.

Maybe I'm just sensitive as a researcher, but my vote is we make fun of the many, many things that happen each NFL week that ignore analytical wisdom rather than make fun of research that, however flawed, is trying to advance our understanding of the game in a profound way.

Bryan Knowles: The issue with the model that has Donald as an average run defender isn't the model, which I think is quite good overall. It's the repeated insistence that the model must be 100% correct, and therefore Donald is, undeniably and undoubtedly, an average run defender, that causes the ridicule. If we were to say that the Saints, coming into today, were exactly 39% better than an average football team, that DVOA represented an absolute truth rather than a best estimate of a complex system, we'd be rightly ridiculed. No one has made the claim that Donald is an elite run defender or anything, but when your model spits out results that are contrary to scouting ... well, the model might be justified in placing him ~relatively~ low. But continuing to harp on the outlier and saying no, everyone else is wrong, reduces trust in the model as a whole.

Vince Verhei: I watched every snap Donald played in 2019, and the notion that he is anything other than a clear asset against the run is ridiculous on its face.

As fans, supporters, and (hopefully) producers of good research and good analytics, we should also critique, criticize, and mock bad analytics, because they give our industry a bad name. When Brian Burke tried to back up his analytical critique of Donald with film evidence of what he claimed were bad Donald plays, he instead showed that the Rams used a lot of stunts, which sometimes took Donald "out of position" by design, and that Donald's teammates often failed to capitalize on the opportunities he presented to them.

I believe Burke's model is built to measure two-gap linemen, and it's probably good at that. But it won't give a good measure of one-gappers, and trying to do that is just garbage-in, garbage-out.

Scott Spratt: Well said, Bryan, but that's also why it's so important for us analytical-leaning football writers to provide that good context for readers. I assume that the ESPN research team got set up for ridicule by headline writers who knew that highlighting Aaron Donald that way would draw eyeballs. But why are we confident that Donald is the player the model is missing on? Maybe you have a real feel for it in a way that I don't. It sounds like Vince does. But for me, the occasional Donald highlight play isn't going to convince me either way.

Bryan Knowles: I won't blame the headline writers when it was Burke himself, the model creator, who kept coming back to Donald over and over again on Twitter throughout the offseason.

The top players it spit out pretty much align with the educated fan's understanding of who is and is not solid against the run. Donald is the one very extreme outlier. To highlight that, and not as a "Donald is an outlier because stunts take him out of position" or "the model doesn't think X is valuable" or even "he sometimes runs himself out of the play" is valuing the model over on-field results. Every model is gonna come up with somethin' weird, and that's fine -- and can be interesting and helpful in and of itself, either showing the sorts of plays a player doesn't make, or the limitations and assumptions present in the model, or both. But a little bit of humility in these sorts of things would seem to me to be an asset.

Vince Verhei: While we're arguing about Donald, the 49ers have a fourth-and-1 at the 39-yard line, 35 seconds to go, game tied at 20-all ... and they go for it! Kyle Juszczyk appears to pick up the yard to go on a fullback give, but the play is being reviewed.

Massive credit to Kyle Shanahan for not settling for a 56-yard field goal try that, good or missed, would have left enough time for the Rams to answer with a field goal of their own.

Bryan Knowles: He's still playing for a 50-yard field goal, considering Nick Mullen's limitations, but going for it on fourth there was huge. Really removes the chance of losing in regulation.

Bryan Knowles: That 50-yard field goal actually turns out to be a 47-yarder, and then an offside on the Rams turns that into a 42-yarder, and Robbie Gould isn't going to miss that. 49ers win 23-20.

Happiest team in the country right now? Probably the Seahawks, who just saw both the Rams and Cardinals lose as decently heavy favorites.

Vince Verhei: EDJ Overlords really liked the decision to go for it, which added 10% to San Francisco's Game-Winning Chance -- and they liked the conversion, which added another 10%, even more.

Four seconds left, the 49ers are about to try from 47 -- but Jalen Ramsey is offsides, moving them 5 yards closer. Robbie Gould hits from 42 and the 49ers win.

The Rams loss leaves Seattle alone in first place in the division, pending their game against the Eagles tomorrow night.

Carl Yedor: Deebo Samuel has been carrying the 49ers' offense today. In his first game back from injury, Samuel has over half of San Francisco's total receiving yards, and Shanahan has been doing what he can to specifically call plays that get the ball in his hands. The 49ers may not end up making a playoff run this season, but between Samuel, Kittle, and rookie Brandon Aiyuk, they look to have their young receiving corps of the future already. Mix in Shanahan's success with his run scheme and the 49ers have most of the pieces to surround a quarterback that you would need moving forward. Whether that quarterback moving forward is Jimmy Garoppolo, Mullens, or someone not currently on the roster remains to be seen, but the skill position talent is definitely there.

Samuel played a major role in San Francisco's two-minute drive for the game-winning field goal.

Tom Gower: I'm totally open to the idea that there are defensive linemen who are completely dependent on successful penetration to be quality run defenders and they are significantly worse than their splash plays make them look. While I haven't watched him specifically in particular depth, from what I have seen, I'm not convinced that Aaron Donald is one of those players.

Kansas City Chiefs 27 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24

Dave Bernreuther: CBS Miami switched over to the end of the Colts game, which they then stuck with even past the start of the national broadcast. I'm not sure I've ever seen that before, but it cost us the trick play and every play of the opening drive until the third-down throwaway. That sucked.

The field goal attempt from 1 foot away sucked more. Why? Why are these coaches kicking these dumb field goals?

Bryan Knowles: The announcers have spent a ton of the first half talking about Tom Brady's inability to complete a deep pass this season. Patrick Mahomes may have been listening, launching the ball 50 yards through the air to Tyreek Hill, who races the last 25 yards to the end zone. That was way too easy. 10-0 lead for Kansas City.

Scott Spratt: The most shocking part of that 75-yarder, Bryan, is that it was 20 yards longer than Mahomes had completed a pass all season.

Aaron Schatz: Carlton Davis is having a great season so far but he can't cover Hill one-on-one deep. Hill's on four catches for 133 yards in the first eight minutes.

Dave Bernreuther: Bryan I have that one at SIXTY -- and from one hash to the other too. Looked like he threw it from his own 18 and it was caught around the 23.

Underthrown, technically. But uh, that's allowed at that distance.

Bryan Knowles: Carlton Davis, burn this tape. Tyreek Hill has seven catches, 203 yards and two touchdowns ... in the FIRST QUARTER. And a backflip, which I'll link as soon as people's jaws stop dropping and they can post videos on the Internet.

Bryan Knowles: The single-game receiving record is just 336 yards.

Aaron Schatz: Communication between Tom Brady and his receivers seems absent. One third-down pass went through Cameron Brate's hands. Another was way over Mike Evans' head. A third bounced off Chris Godwin's hands. There may have been a little defensive contract on that last one, but still, the Bucs can't move the ball. Three straight three-and-outs.

Dave Bernreuther: Down 17-0, fourth-and-2, just shy of midfield, and Bruce Arians ... punts? I love you, Bruce, but that's not playing to win. No risk it, no biscuit!

Bryan Knowles: Finally, the game has been joined. After struggling all day, Brady finally finds Rob Gronkowksi for a big play down the middle, and then a Buccaneers running back makes a catch (!) with Ronald Jones tip-toeing down the sideline for a touchdown. Hey, some interest in one of the late games!

Still 17-7 Chiefs late in the second quarter.

Scott Spratt: I don't think this moves the needle of the result, but Ronald Jones just broke out a sweet high step to stay in bounds for a Bucs touchdown.

But they're still down 17-7.

Aaron Schatz: The Bucs just made it down into the red zone on their first drive of the second half, but Brady sailed it way high to Gronk on third-and-goal after not seeing that Gronk was open on second-and-goal. Brady has been sailing the ball high an awful lot today.

Bryan Knowles: Tyreek Hill was held quiet there for a while, but he's back now -- up to 261 yards and a trio of touchdowns, putting him into the top 20 for single-game performances. We still have 22 minutes of game time left.

Chiefs up 27-10, and the only drama left might be if Hill can catch Flipper.

Aaron Schatz: Hey, Tom Brady finally hit a throw over 20 yards downfield. Beautiful 44-yard ball to Chris Godwin. The next play, Tyrann Mathieu is in his face on a blitz, Brady launches it deep again, this time to Scotty Miller, and it's a Bashaud Breeland interception instead.

Aaron Schatz: Brady hits Mike Evans on a fourth-and-3 down the right sideline to make it 27-17. Chiefs went three-and-out on their last drive after a Brady interception caused by a bounce off Daniel Sorenson's helmet at the line.

It just feels like Kansas City should be winning this game by more. It feels like they should be winning every game by more. I've seen it suggested that they're just toying with teams, that Andy Reid is holding back some of the best offensive plays for the playoffs or something. All I know is that their wins just aren't as convincing or dominant as they should be given the way people talk about this offense -- or the way it plays when it is at its best.

Aaron Schatz: (Part of the reason it feels that the Chiefs offense is better than the results on the field show: a couple of drives ago Mecole Hardman was wide open down the seam, could have had a long touchdown, and dropped it.)

Aaron Schatz: The Bucs finally got an interception off Mahomes -- more of an arm punt, it was a very deep throw, but they got it. Unfortunately, Jason Pierre-Paul came in on Mahomes with his hand up and hit him in the face for a roughing the passer flag. Tough break for the Bucs but you can't do that.

Aaron Schatz: Roughing the passer giveth and roughing the passer taketh away. Chiefs just got dinged twice on a Bucs drive, both times Frank Clark, for getting hands up in Tom Brady's pass. Brady hit a bunch of underneath stuff to Leonard Fournette and Chris Godwin, then went to Mike Evans in the left side of the end zone for the touchdown to make this 27-24 Kansas City.

Aaron Schatz: Among the problems with man coverage against Mahomes, besides Tyreek Hill roasting you alive repeatedly, is the fact that it leaves him open to scramble with tons of space. Which just happened on second-and-6 with 3:15 left. Mahomes slid down in bounds to keep the clock running, and this game is probably over. But once again Kansas City let their opponent back into the game in the second half. This team just feels like it should be winning more convincingly.

Scott Spratt: I assumed that Tony Romo was just talking because he's supposed to talk when he said he expected these teams to rematch in the Super Bowl after the Bucs just lost to fall to 7-5. But then I checked out the Super Bowl odds from prior to Week 12.

And wondered if, since the Bucs were already effectively eliminated from winning the NFC South behind the two-loss Saints, do the Bucs weirdly benefit by there only being one NFC playoff team with a bye? That's obviously bad news for a team like the Packers if they can't run down the one seed. But the Bucs couldn't have won a bye in the old system either since they won't win their division. Doesn't that mean the new system helps the Bucs by making it harder on teams that aren't (presumably) the Saints?

What do you all think?

Bryan Knowles: I think the Bucs most benefit from the NFC East being so terrible. If the Saints get, say, the second seed and have to host the Cardinals, that seems like a much tougher matchup than the Buccaneers traveling to New York.

The lack of the bye does help, I think, but it's impact is dwarfed by the poor performance of the NFC East.

Scott Spratt: That makes sense, Bryan. But does it rely on the Bucs specifically landing on the fifth seed, then? Because at least for now, the Rams sit there with just four losses, and the Rams beat the Bucs head to head.

Aaron Schatz: Also, DVOA just loves the Bucs this year. They were second coming into this week. Two of the four losses coming into this week were very close, and three of the four losses coming into this week had positive DVOA for both teams. So that high DVOA means that they win more games than you would expect in the simulation.

Bryan Knowles: It does Scott; I forgot the Rams still had the fifth seed. I choose to blame in on Aaron Donald's poor run defense. ;)

Scott Spratt: Not so fast Bryan! Are we sure the Rams aren't intentionally losing the NFC West to the Seahawks then so they can play the NFC East champ on the road rather than the Cardinals at home? Actually, what if Donald's poor run defense was just a seed-hunting effort? Donald is the football player equivalent of the South Park little league team that got really good at hitting line drives into outs so they wouldn't have to play baseball all summer.

Tom Gower: I second Aaron's comments about the puzzling nature of Kansas City. They look so good at times, like when they built their lead today, and then they go into lulls. Sure, the dropped 70-yard touchdown matters a lot, and like I said after the Raiders game, they have another gear no other offense has and I still think they're the Super Bowl favorites. But if they have too much of a lull at the wrong point against the wrong team, they're out in the playoffs.

Chicago Bears 25 at Green Bay Packers 41

Scott Spratt: Maybe the Packers' No. 20 DVOA run defense deserves a mulligan for that 226-yard Dalvin Cook game. But they did just allow David Montgomery to take a carry for 57 yards.

Coming into today, Montgomery had just two carries (for 38 and 23 yards) for more than 12 yards on 131 carries all season. You don't often get holes that big behind an offensive line allowing less than 4.0 adjusted line yards.

Scott Spratt: Packers center Corey Linsley just got rolled up on and hobbled to the sidelines. That could be a really big deal. According to Sports Info Solutions, he has blown just three blocks on 572 snaps this season. His 0.5% blown block rate is third-best among centers with 300 or more snaps.

Aaron Schatz: Packers go down the field easily on their first two drives and it's 14-3 Green Bay. The Bears have rushed three a couple of times -- do they think Aaron Rodgers isn't going to find a man open when he has all day to throw?

Scott Spratt: If you start watching this clip at seven seconds, it looks like a tremendous deep connection from Rodgers to Darnell Savage.

But it turns out that was a Mitchell Trubisky pass, and Savage is a defensive back, not one of his receivers. Still, Savage must have been a wideout at some point in his life, right?

Bryan Knowles: I'm not entirely sure the Bears could score 27 points against the Packers if you gave them two games to do so. I'm somewhat doubtful they'll come back in the second half.

Carl Yedor: Chicago gets into the end zone just before the half to cut the Packers' lead to 27-10. The Bears get the ball to start the second half, so maybe they have a chance to come back if they can score again on the other side of the break. The most interesting thing about this game so far is probably that neither team has punted. Green Bay has three touchdown drives while the Bears have two scoring drives, one interception, and one drive that ended in a score for Green Bay courtesy of their fumble return.

Scott Spratt: Seriously, Darnell Savage should be a wide receiver.


145 comments, Last at 01 Dec 2020, 12:43pm

#1 by Laserblast // Nov 30, 2020 - 5:08am

Please, PLEASE, make a column about Anthony Lynn's decisions, tweet all about it, show the world what happened in that game that, unfortunately, is pretty usual in his game management, to see if he gets fired.

This incompetence is unbelievable. He's Patricia with a better press.

Points: 0

#5 by Mike B. In Va // Nov 30, 2020 - 8:39am

I was really stunned at how bad it was, not having really followed a full Chargers game all year. Apparently he's still using the clock-management "skills" gained under Rex Ryan?

I was a supporter of Lynn for HC in Buffalo when they decided to let him go. Feel like I dodged a bullet there.

Points: 0

#17 by Laserblast // Nov 30, 2020 - 9:45am

That was just one game.


Imagine seeing this disasterclass almost every game for the last 4 years.

Points: 0

#32 by Mike B. In Va // Nov 30, 2020 - 11:24am

I'm a Bills fan. There's not much in the way of bad gameday decision-making that I haven't seen.

Points: 0

#29 by mehllageman56 // Nov 30, 2020 - 11:02am

Lynn's one game in Buffalo included this awesome play:


Points: 0

#19 by Caw Caw // Nov 30, 2020 - 9:51am

I like Anthony Lynn. He seems like a genuinely good guy and a leader respected by his players. Patricia is neither and that's why he belongs in the dumpster with Gase. But holy crap, Lynn's 4th quarter decisionmaking is downright suicidal. 

Points: 0

#21 by Laserblast // Nov 30, 2020 - 9:53am

it's not just on the 4th, unfortunately.

He doesn't know how to use timeouts.

His 4th down calls are some of the worst thing in hell. He doesn't remember the sneak until the last play of the game.

He doesn't know what to challenge.

He calls timeouts instead of taking delay of game on punts.


Points: 0

#22 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 30, 2020 - 9:54am

Patricia was actually okay at clock management. It was the one thing he was okay at.

If you paired him with Reid, they'd never lose.

Points: 0

#78 by CuseFanInSoCal // Nov 30, 2020 - 1:35pm

than being trashed by the Detroit media. But no one will ever care about the Chargers (unless hate-watching counts as caring) as long as there is "Los Angeles" in front of their name and not "San Diego".

Points: 0

#2 by nat // Nov 30, 2020 - 7:56am

Botched “blindside” block call:

It is a foul if a player initiates a block when his path is toward or parallel to his own end line and makes forcible contact to his opponent with his helmet, forearm, or shoulder.

The nifty video shows — clearly — the blocker was stopped, with both feet motionless on the ground. His path was in no direction at all. What’s more, the forcible contact was supplied entirely by the other player. It was a bogus call. Let’s not make excuses for bad officiating.

Points: 0

#3 by RickD // Nov 30, 2020 - 7:57am

It's important to note that this rule is in the section called "defenseless player".  Does that look like a defenseless player chasing the play?  Is the "path" of the blocker "toward or parallel to his own end line"?  He's looking towards his end line.  But that doesn't mean that's his "path".  His "path" is escorting Gunner toward the opposite end zone.  The block itself happens when he stops and the Cardinal's path is into him.  

This is a terrible rule.  I don't think it was ruled correctly, and regardless, it needs to be removed.  Whatever behavior they think they are stopping with this rule, they've also managed to ban normal, clean blocks that have been legal for my entire life.  And to what end?  

Points: 0

#6 by Mike B. In Va // Nov 30, 2020 - 8:40am

This also isn't the first one of these I've seen that had a major impact on a game. I get what they're trying to do from a player safety standpoint, but it seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Points: 0

#9 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Nov 30, 2020 - 8:49am

The rule is poorly worded, and the interpretation even worse.  I do hope it gets a review this offseason.  There was no player safety issue here, it was a clean block on a guy who was looking right at the blocker and knew he was there, and who would otherwise have tackled the ballcarrier.  I agree with the intent of the rule, but it's application needs some refining.

Points: 0

#24 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 30, 2020 - 9:55am

It's important to note that this rule is in the section called "defenseless player".  Does that look like a defenseless player chasing the play?

No, but then, a 270-lb TE diving into a motionless 170-lb DB a foot shorter than him also benefits from being a "defenseless player." Sometimes the name doesn't match the visual.

What's really important is that we endure that all edge cases must favor the offense, because this reality sucks.

Points: 0

#69 by dbostedo // Nov 30, 2020 - 12:34pm

Isn't it just an extension of the same "blind side" or crack-back blocking rule that started with the "Hines Ward" rule? It's there, I think, because someone chasing down the ball carrier and completely focused on them can easily get "blind sided" by someone blocking back toward their own end zone (which looks to be the situation in this case). Basically, it seems to be trying to prevent blocks where two people are running straight into each other and one may not see it coming. 

Points: 0

#116 by Eddo // Nov 30, 2020 - 5:16pm

I think this was an iffy call at best, but I also don't get why the "he was about to make a tackle!" argument is being used.  The rule says nothing about it only affecting a defender who is out of the play, just one that doesn't see the hit coming.

Points: 0

#4 by rj1 // Nov 30, 2020 - 8:02am

The Broncos-Saints game should not be counted in this site's official stats for purposes of DVOA/DYAR for the same reasons the site gave that the scab games of the 1987 NFL season were not counted. Yes, the Denver Broncos were forced to start a practice squad wide receiver on at quarterback and pretended it was a real NFL game. There's not a damn bit of difference between that and what is stated below.

"Yes, the NFL owners really did bring in a bunch of replacement players and stuck them on the field for three weeks and pretended they were real NFL teams. Week 3 of the season was cancelled, and then the NFL played three weeks of the schedule with rosters that were almost entirely different. The death of the USFL left a lot of unsigned players floating around with a year or two of professional football experience. Some of these players took the field during the strikebreaker games in Weeks 4-6 of the 1987 season. But there were nowhere near enough of these players to actually fill all 28 NFL rosters. So for three weeks, NFL teams fielded rosters with a mix of USFL and CFL refugees, washed-out low-round draft picks, undrafted camp bodies, random weekend warrior athletes, and future rap mogul Suge Knight. (Yes, the man behind Death Row records had played defensive end for UNLV and had two games with the 1987 Rams.)

Making this all even more absurd was the fact that the strikebreaker rosters also included a number of actual NFL starters, because the cohesiveness of the NFL Players Association rapidly broke down. Some players crossed the picket line immediately. Others waited until the second week of the strike. By the third week of the strike, a bunch of players were crossing because everyone knew the strike was going to be over. So you ended up with Joe Montana throwing to wide receivers you had never heard of, but he also had Roger Craig in the backfield, and the other team's quarterback would be some eighth-round pick who was cut before the season started. And then in Week 7, everyone was back and the NFL just went on with the schedule as usual.

All this nonsense means the official statistics for 1987 are completely screwy. Most players had a 12-game season, but a lot of stars played 13 games, and some guys played in 14 or even 15 games. Each team's record is 20 percent the responsibility of a mostly different group of players, and the NFL actually determined playoff positions based on this. For example, the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins both went 7-5 with their regular players, but the Colts won the AFC East because their strikebreakers went 2-1 while Miami's went 1-2.

At Football Outsiders, we've solved this problem by pretending that those three games weren't really part of the 1987 season. For our official 1987 DVOA ratings, we have completely ignored the strikebreaker games of Weeks 4-6. Every team's rating is based solely on a 12-game season. Opponent adjustments are also based on regular games only, with Weeks 4-6 removed."

The QBs Denver had all tested negative. They weren't allowed to sign anyone and they weren't allowed to suit up an assistant coach. All the QBs weren't wearing a mask in Driskel's vicinity...when players in huddles or on sidelines or in active practices never are. On those QBs for being idiots not following the rules and whoever the offensive assistant coach there supposed to be responsible should be fired. But like most things with this virus, it's a lot of pretending. I'm not going to argue the impetus of the virus and wearing masks, but if this is the standard the NFL expects, then the season should literally be stopped today and no one plays any football from Pop Warner to high school up to pros again until it's all gone, because we have a steady diet of players testing positive and they're all in huddles together breathing hard not wearing a mask during games and during practices. To act like that's fine but 4 guys sitting around a table is not goes into complete dumbassery. At this point, the Super Bowl and playoffs are going to get screwed up by this. How can it not? It already has kind of screwed up college football with Lawrence not playing against Notre Dame.

Points: 0

#7 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Nov 30, 2020 - 8:44am

I'd recommend at least dropping the game from the perspective of measuring the quality of NO's D, or DEN's O.  That wasn't just a backup QB not as good as the starter situation.  It was extreme enough that the only "information" provided from the game is more likely to be false than true.

Points: 0

#18 by MarkV // Nov 30, 2020 - 9:45am

I agree with this. No had a great day running the ball, and I think that taught me something.

I saw multiple 10 man boxes from NOs defense.  I don't blame them, but they couldn't have done that against taysom hill or Tim tebow, they would have eventually gotten roasted.

Points: 0

#25 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 30, 2020 - 9:57am

We credited the Pats D for playing in the AFC East, right? Same thing.

Points: 0

#30 by rj1 // Nov 30, 2020 - 11:05am

No it's not and that's a take I expect from a random sports talk radio blowhard looking to incite war from callers.

Points: 0

#40 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 30, 2020 - 11:40am

Get over yourself.

Yes, Hinton was bad. Yes 2 INTs in 9 attempts, and more completions to the other team is a deplorable performance. But it's not unique. We've seen actual, full-time, professional QBs play this badly -- for good teams! Nathan Peterman has two games -- one a playoff game! -- where he had as many or more INTs + fumbles as he did completions. He's still a QB in the league! He played this week!

Chris Weinke had two separate starts where he netted less yardage than Hinton did. Heisman-winning QB, Chris Weinke.

So yeah, it was bad, and for weird reasons, but it wasn't a systematic sham like the replacement players (a few of whom were actually good). It was just something you'd see from a backup Dolphin, Bronco, or Jets QB. Which is a mockery of a sort, but not an unexpected one. It's just the sort of dull uselessness you expect when you get down to QB3 on most rosters, like a 2019 Detroit-Denver game.

Points: 0

#44 by theslothook // Nov 30, 2020 - 11:46am

I would say, even though his numbers won't say it was the worst performance ever, I would be hard pressed to think it didn't impact the game from both perspectives.

Consider if a still great Manning was qb of the Broncos. Not only does the offensive approach for the Broncos change, it also changes how the Saints operate their offense because they know a low variance gameplan with Taysum Hill is likely to lead to a blow out. 

I think this game is pretty much not going to tell us anything about either of these two teams even though its just one position that went missing. 

Points: 0

#55 by rj1 // Nov 30, 2020 - 12:05pm

He wasn't QB3. He was QB8. Broncos had 4 QBs all ruled out and they bypassed their stated emergency QB. They had 2 assistant coaches they asked to dress and were told no. So Hinton was QB8.

Points: 0

#58 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Nov 30, 2020 - 12:09pm

I think you need to get over yourself.  Now you're stretching to try and justify your initial quip, which I presume was intended to be funny.  But your subsequent comments are plain wrong.  Bad performances from actual QBs tell us something about the quality of the defense, and a season of bad QB performance tells us something about the quality of the offense.  But this was a one-off game where DEN had no QB, only a practice squad WR who wasn't a good enough QB to play college ball in that position and a couple of RBs taking wildcat snaps that hadn't been practiced because it wasn't part of the game plan, but rather an emergency situation. 

DVOA will rate this as a great performance for NO's D, but for all we know Hinton only having 2 INTs may be an indication that NOs D had a lousy performance.  Who knows what the average NFL D would do against a guy who couldn't make his college team as a QB?  There's no data for comparable games, and none of the stats you provided are even close to being comparable, because all of those featured guys that somebody wanted to play at QB in the NFL.

Further, the games you cited also provided data for how that team's O would perform over the rest of the season.  I don't believe this game does.

Points: 0

#61 by Bryan Knowles // Nov 30, 2020 - 12:18pm

For what it's worth, I tend to agree -- the Broncos/Saints game has very little (although not zero) predictive power going forward.

I believe the current plan is to leave the game in DVOA -- it happened, after all, and it's not like the Broncos didn't play a full defense or anything of that nature -- but to remove the Week 12 defensive performance from the Saints' DAVE for terms of our playoff odds.

We'd probably remove the Broncos' offensive performance from those playoff projections as well, but, well...

Points: 0

#94 by Aaron Schatz // Nov 30, 2020 - 3:12pm

I'm going to include the game in DVOA, but constantly mention its effect in the writing. I'll remove the game from both Broncos offense and Saints defense for purposes of the playoff odds simulation.

From a technical perspective, it's simply much harder to remove a single game from a season than to remove three whole weeks. That's part of the reason. Also, there's no good reason why the other parts of the game shouldn't count: the Saints offense, the Broncos defense, the special teams.

Points: 0

#63 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 30, 2020 - 12:22pm

I wonder how much 11 plays will move the needle on season-long performance. 

because all of those featured guys that somebody wanted to play at QB in the NFL.

That seems like an appeal to authority fallacy. The Bears haven't been able to find a QB since the 40s. The best player the Cardinals have drafted at QB was actually a punter. (Not entirely true; Jim Hart was good and Lomax was once prolific -- still Tupa has the most all-pro seasons of anyone the Cardinals drafted as a QB since the war) Broncos included. Driskell was so good the Lions didn't want him back. Since they drove out Cutler, they've had the healthy Manning years which they lucked into, and nothing else. 

Long story short, some teams just suck at evaluating QBs. Say what you will about Hinton as a college QB, but he started more games and threw more passes than Matt Cassell. 

Points: 0

#117 by nick.hornsby // Nov 30, 2020 - 5:17pm

As a Broncos fan, I still wonder how many winning seasons this decade we'd have if Manning chose another team. We'd have to have lucked into a couple, right? 

I honestly wish Elway would get better scouts on QB's, or listen to the ones he has now if he's not. 


Points: 0

#8 by big10freak // Nov 30, 2020 - 8:48am

The Packers punter did much better this game.  I wonder if it's like last year when he was trying to punt as coached and when that was not working went back to how he punted in college?


Linsley is considered all but gone in GB after this season due to the multiple big contracts signed (Kenny Clark, David Bakhtiari) recently.  GB has two legit options in Lucas Patrick and Elgton Jenkins.  Jenkins is the guy who stepped in at center after CL was hurt and like always was completely dependable.  I think there is a legit case for Jenkins as offensive MVP and no, not joking.  Dude can play anywhere on the line and is good to great no matter where he plays.  There was some talk that maybe GB would let Bakhtiari walk and put Jenkins at left tackle in 2021.  Anyway, Jenkins is a really impressive player.  


That Montgomery run was very UNimpressive if you look at the defensive setup.  And this type of nonsense has been happening all season.  The Packer beat writers have done a fantastic job of discussing on how Pettine repeatedly has organized (if that is the word) his defense for different situations to basically fail no matter what play is called by the opponent.  Certainly most Packer fans have tempered expectations for this team for the simple reason that the defense has both individual weak links (d-line beyond Clark for example) and are coached in such curious fashion.

Points: 0

#10 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Nov 30, 2020 - 8:55am

Whatever the failings of the Packers' D, they were no match for the failings of the Bears' O last night.

I do wonder what the Bears do at QB next year.  Those early wins mean they likely won't draft high enough to get one of the highly rated QB prospects.  Presumably, though, they'll still draft high enough to go after a second tier QB prospect.  They pretty much have to go that route, don't they, rather than drop more cap space on trying to attract another veteran?  Either that or take a flyer on someone else's reject on a cheap contract (Haskins, Rosen, Winston, etc.)

Points: 0

#75 by Steve in WI // Nov 30, 2020 - 1:07pm

They're basically stuck with Foles on the roster next year, either as the presumed starter or a very expensive backup. They definitely have to draft one somewhere, because they do not have even a 3rd string developmental QB today. (Tyler Bray as a 28-year-old in his 8th season most certainly does not count, even by the most generous standards of the term "developmental QB.")

Honestly, I think they should go into next year with Foles, another team's reject on a very cheap 1-year deal, and a mid-round rookie. And hope that some of the fluky wins from this season turn into fluky losses next year and give them a top 5-10 draft pick they can use to try to acquire a franchise QB. My biggest fear is that Pace doesn't get fired and in a last-ditch effort to retain some job security he mortgages future picks to move up and get the 3rd or 4th QB off the board.

Points: 0

#28 by ChrisLong // Nov 30, 2020 - 10:10am

I think the criticism of the Packers D is overblown here. I don't think they're good, but I think you're taking the worst play of the entire game and using that to outline what you believe are systemic issues with the play-calling and scheme. To me it looks like Kenny Clark gets his ass beat by Cody Whitehair (looks like he is really passively going along with the zone flow), the second level defenders flowed too much with the zone blocking action, and Kirksey was a bit slow on his reading of the play on the backside. But it's also his job to be there against Trubisky too so I think most of the blame falls on the first two.

The Packers main defensive issues this season have been the DL beyond Clark (although Clark has not had a good season by his standards), inability of basically any of the OLBs to set an edge, and the backup DBs being so bad that the whole defense has to play soft to cover their asses. Problem 1 won't be fixed this season, problem 2 seems to be not as much of an issue in recent weeks, and problem 3 is left to the fates of injury. If the Packers can keep their top 3 corners healthy, they'll be OK as a defense. Not a good defense, but probably not one that will outright lose them games on its own either.

Points: 0

#35 by dank067 // Nov 30, 2020 - 11:29am

I dunno, these issues have just been endemic with the Packers run defense. Pettine draws up weird fronts, I guess to try to cause confusion with the offense's blocking assignments, but in practice just seems to end up confusing his own players and asking them to cover too much ground or to make plays in space that they just aren't capable of.

I think Pettine is inspired by how college teams have come to defend the run with 5-6 DBs on the field on every down, but he's drawing things up on paper that aren't realistic on the field or that they can't coach properly.

Points: 0

#38 by big10freak // Nov 30, 2020 - 11:37am

There are a slew of images available online over the last 2 seasons where the pre-snap setup is at best unconventional if at worst dumb.  And you can be unconventional sure. But that approach should generate some positive results at times.  By all accounts the bulk of positive defensive outcomes come from great individual plays versus scheme. 

Personally I think MP’s fundamental belief is that offenses cannot string together sufficient plays to score so if you play risk management over time something will crack.  The way football has gone I think this is misguided 

Points: 0

#42 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 30, 2020 - 11:44am

In reply to by big10freak

Personally I think MP’s fundamental belief is that offenses cannot string together sufficient plays to score so if you play risk management over time something will crack.  The way football has gone I think this is misguided 

What would be guided?

The two concepts are basically:

1. Force turnovers.
2. Force consistent execution.

Turnovers have never been lower, so #2 is probably your best bet.

Points: 0

#45 by big10freak // Nov 30, 2020 - 11:48am

Isn’t forcing poor execution also an option?   Meaning you push the offense to execute differently than intended or rush execution.  

Points: 0

#82 by ChrisLong // Nov 30, 2020 - 2:13pm

Sure, but the primary way to do that is with either:

-a dominant front four that can not get pushed around against the run while also providing a good to great pass rush with just 4. Packers can do the second but not the first, and can't really do the second without help from scheme.

-complicated blitz packages combined with a secondary that can hold up with out a lot of help. If Packers players can't handle the current scheme, don't think they can do this either.

I think coaches often get blamed when personnel is the real problem. The Packers have done well to get as much as they have out of the Smiths, but there's a reason they weren't true top dollar, franchise player-type free agents and its because they have limitations that teams are learning to exploit. Same with the LBs, Lowry, etc.

There's enough to make an average to good defense, but they will never win games on their own and somehow that seems to be the expectation.

With that said, the secondary is good, and I think Savage is coming on. That could be a real benefit to the defense; I kinda think they have a chance to pull off a Falcons-style late season defensive surge. They also have a chance to crumple. I don't think all of the blame for a collapse would lie at Pettine's feet.

Points: 0

#83 by theslothook // Nov 30, 2020 - 2:23pm

"I think coaches often get blamed when personnel is the real problem."

This is why I have such a hard time blaming coaches. You really need to have a very accurate handle on the talent you have before you can hold a coach culpable. I think Patricia, for example, serves as a clean example because the difference between the Lions coached by him and Caldwell was so night and day. 

However, take Adam Gase. Everyone has resigned the fact that he is a terrible coach. And I don't necessarily disagree, but we also need to realize that this offense is beyond horrid from a talent perspective. With Becton out of the lineup, they are talent poor at the offensive line and their skill positions are by far the worst in football. I also think Darnold sucks and Flacco is Flacco so you roll all of that up and what can you conclude besides they stink and its not largely a coaching issue?

Points: 0

#115 by Led // Nov 30, 2020 - 5:08pm

Disagree about the Jets' receivers being horrid.  Crowder is legitimately a good slot WR; Mims is a promising rookie with good size, speed, and ball skills; and Perriman is mediocre but a passable deep threat.  The TEs, especially Herndon, have demonstrated ability under other coaches.  Collectively, they are not the Greatest Show on Turf by any means, but they're good enough to score more than 3 points against Miami in 8 quarters.  The evidence that Gase is a historically bad coach, which includes the performance of two different teams under his direction over multiple years as well as the performance of his former players in various different scenarios, is robust.   

Points: 0

#118 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 30, 2020 - 5:32pm

And a WR they jettisoned, Robby Anderson, is heading for a 100-1200 season for a team no more talented than NYJ.

Points: 0

#127 by jh_eldred // Nov 30, 2020 - 8:49pm

The Packers have some holes in some personnel, but their problems are systematic and mostly to blame on coaching. Playing dime non-stop against running teams in running situations is not a personnel problem. Maybe they wouldn't be great against the run if coached correctly, but they certainly wouldn't be this bad. For example; their D-line consists of Kenny Clark (who is awesome), Tyler Lancaster (an effort guy who is solid against the run but useless against the pass) and Dean Lowry (who is bad at everything). On their bench sits Kingsley Keke (good pass rusher, bad against the run) and Montravious Adams (good against the run, useless as a pass rusher). A good coach would play a Clark/Lancaster/Adams front in obvious rushing situations and a Clark/Keke/? front on passing downs - not optimal by any means but at least playing guys to their strengths. They simply will not do this. Adams hardly plays and Keke's snap count has been all over the place, when it's clear they should be rotated more in place of Lowry. 

This happens elsewhere on the defense too. Forcing Will Redmond (a very bad player who is especially bad at tackling) into a hybrid linebacker role when Raven Greene is hurt because Pettine can't find a way to run the defense any other way is just baffling stupidity. His scheme is static and extremely easy to exploit which is why smart teams consistently gash them, and even dumb teams occasionally figure out that running against a dime defense with players coached to crash the wrong gap is a good way to move the ball. 

Pettine has never had a good defense outside of his Rex Ryan years. He's a hardworking but ultimately dumb guy who gets the least out the talent provided to him. 

Points: 0

#130 by ChrisLong // Nov 30, 2020 - 9:16pm

Good teams gash them because they are not a good defense. Again, I am not arguing that Pettine is some savant and the defense is only bad because of the personnel. But neither is it only bad because of Pettine's weaknesses as a coordinator. There may be some systematic weakness in the run scheme; it's difficult for me as a fan to know. But smart teams gash them because they take advantage of the Packers players' weaknesses. But what other way would you suggest that Pettine find? There isn't some easy-to-find solution when your one linebacker-sized player who can cover is out.

The situations you are describing (obvious rushing and obvious passing) rarely exist, especially obvious rushing downs. 1st and 10 is no longer an obvious rushing down. The only situations I would call obvious rushing are 3rd and 1 or <2 yards from the goalline. On obvious passing downs, they do what you suggest but better: they use the Smiths, Gary, and Clark.

Smart teams take advantage of the very fact that the Packers have to make subs like you are describing to cover their player's weaknesses; opponents know that if Lancaster is in they have way less pass rush, and they pass more, and they know that the dime D can't play run D, so then they run more. The Colts ran a ton of no huddle for this very reason: they knew where they had the advantage and they pressed it by preventing subs. Why do you think they ran the ball like 8 times out of the half, and then the next drive passed like 8 times in a row? Good defenses in the modern NFL can play the run and pass with the exact same personnel; the problem is not some esoteric element of the run fits and coaching, but personnel.

And I know we all love to hate on the Packers run D, and it has been really bad at times this year BUT it has quietly gone up to 20th in the league, which means they have been playing better the past few weeks. 20th in the league is not good, but it is not the terrible awful mess some make it out to be.

Points: 0

#132 by jh_eldred // Nov 30, 2020 - 10:09pm

"There isn't some easy-to-find solution when your one linebacker-sized player who can cover is out."

Raven Greene isn't linebacker-sized, which is part of why he gets hurt a lot. He's good in that hybrid role all things considered, but when he's hurt they really shouldn't auto-replace him with another safety, especially one who shouldn't be on the roster.

"The situations you are describing (obvious rushing and obvious passing) rarely exist, especially obvious rushing downs. 1st and 10 is no longer an obvious rushing down."

This is mostly true, but in the case of the Vikings loss (and the near-loss to the Jags) the opponent just ran the ball over and over again because it was the only thing they were good at (plus heavy winds) and GB just wouldn't get out of dime. This is also what lost them the NFC championship game last year. Any intelligent coach recognizes you should sell out against the run against these teams outside of very obvious passing downs and make the middling QB beat you, but Pettine refuses to adjust from his base package. 

 "Smart teams take advantage of the very fact that the Packers have to make subs like you are describing to cover their player's weaknesses"

They don't make these subs, which is part of the problem. Yeah no-huddle can get around this, but teams either can't or won't do that all game.

Again, Pettine has a track record of bad defenses outside of his work under Rex, and even under Rex his defenses were getting progressively weaker each year. His scheme doesn't even make sense given their personnel; they have a very good secondary and poor run defense, so why is he cheating against the pass by having six DBs on the field at all time? And when you have three good to great cover corners, why have them play 10 yards off half the time? I'm not ignoring the holes they have on defense, but nothing about his scheme makes sense both in the modern NFL and with the available talent he has. 

Points: 0

#11 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 30, 2020 - 9:27am

Scott Spratt: Mike Davis versus 258-pound defensive end D.J. Wonnum.

That's textbook spearing, even if that call is literally never made against the offense at any level of football (there are papers about this!).

Had the roles been reversed, Wonnum would have been suspended.

Points: 0

#12 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 30, 2020 - 9:30am

Bryan Knowles: Never, ever kick the field goal to go up six. Sorry, Scott.

I presume you mean in the end game, because that's not true early, and isn't true even in all late-game situations.

Example: I bet Arizona really wishes they had kicked that FG to go up 6 at the half.

Points: 0

#65 by Joe Pancake // Nov 30, 2020 - 12:24pm

The end of the half is one case where it's a defensible, risk-averse move to kick the field goal, because you don't get the stick-the-other-team-deep-in-their-own-territory-if-it-fails boost.

With the Cardinals being the favorite, I think I would've taken the points there.

Points: 0

#13 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 30, 2020 - 9:37am

Until a week ago I thought that was due to continue, as Drew Brees got hurt while the Bucs were within a game ... but it's fair to say that this game is a huge dose of terrible luck for Brady. Because there's nothing too great about this Hill-led offense, and the Broncos are good enough that if they got a decent game out of Lock this could've been an upset. Now? Not so much.

That transitive luck has never been how Brady's fortune has worked. Brady's in-division opponents have also benefitted from the AFC East only having one replacement-level QB in the last 20 years (much like Chicago's opponents also benefitted from the QB wasteland in the NFC Central in the 80s).

So it's par that Brady's monkey paw injured Drew Brees, but it never goes further than that. The corollary is that Atlanta and Carolina get an injured Drew Brees, too.

Points: 0

#37 by mehllageman56 // Nov 30, 2020 - 11:36am

DYAR in parentheses

2001: Peyton Manning (965), Vinny Testaverde (94)

2002: Chad Pennington (1,412), Drew Bledsoe (608), Jay Fiedler (409)

2003: Vinny Testaverde (435),  Jay Fiedler (325), Chad Pennington (302)

2004: Chad Pennington (917), Drew Bledsoe (120)

2005: Gus Frerotte (65)- this is the first year where your assumption is correct, Frerotte posted negative DVOA.

2006: Chad Pennington (739),  J. Losman (65) negative DVOA though.

2007: Chad Pennington (83), Trent Edwards (3),  both had negative DVOA, another year where you were correct.

2008: Chad Pennington (1,030), Matt Cassel (458), Trent Edwards (161), Brett Farve (94).  This year doesn't count since Brady was hurt, but it is interesting that the entire AFC East had quarterbacks with positive DYAR, and the lowest rated one was an injured Hall of Famer.

2009: Chad Henne (449)

2010: Chad Henne (402), Ryan Fitzpatrick (224), Mark Sanchez (212).  Both Fitz and Sanchez had negative DYOA.

I'll stop there.  Simply scanning until 2015 proved to me you were close to correct about the last ten years (only good season seemed to be Fitzpatrick in 2015).  Brady wasn't even the best quarterback in his division until 2003, and he didn't make it to 1,000 DYAR until 2004.

Points: 0

#48 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 30, 2020 - 11:52am

Your list is Healthy Chad Pennington (who was legitimately really good, but this was a Sasquatch condition) and Peyton Manning(!). The next two best seasons were from other Patriots QBs.

To recap:

1. Healthy Chad Pennington
2. Other Pats QBs
3. A year so far in the past the Colts were in the AFC East.

Because 0 DVOA produces positive DYAR (around 400 over a full season, it appears). Other than 1 and 2, there are 4 seasons of >400, and all are almost exactly 400, so from #3 on down, we're looking at <= 0 DVOA guys. For 20 years. 

Here's how sad that is. The Bears -- a franchise renowned for QB incompetence -- have had 4 such >400 DYAR seasons since 2013, and that's not counting Cutler's 398 season or his 392 half-season, where his DVOA was 5.5. Three different QBs have done it.

Points: 0

#62 by mehllageman56 // Nov 30, 2020 - 12:20pm

The Bledsoe years on this list are from Buffalo.  You are correct about 2008 including Cassel.

Points: 0

#14 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 30, 2020 - 9:40am

Goes to show just how hard it is to play quarterback in the NFL.

Not really?

It just goes to show how hard it is to play QB in the NFL when you haven't played the position in five years and are given 24 hours of notice with no practice time or experience with your line or receivers. It's like pulling a guy in from the stands and seeing how he does.

I could shanghai some random dude walking down the street and force him at gunpoint to prune my garden. That he chopped off some flowers and left some weeds doesn't prove pruning is hard -- it proves unfamiliarity is a bitch.

Points: 0

#15 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 30, 2020 - 9:42am

 the fewest since 2016, when Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick combined for 39 yards on five completions ... and 33 yards lost on six sacks.

But remember, every team with a QB opening should absolutely give the starter job to Colin Kaepernick.

Incidentally, the Saints scored more points than the Chiefs did.

Points: 0

#23 by Mike B. In Va // Nov 30, 2020 - 9:54am

The Broncos are also not the Bucs. Although in the first quarter...

Points: 0

#128 by jh_eldred // Nov 30, 2020 - 9:06pm

This take is PFT fodder and frankly below this website's standards. Blaine Gabbert was never any good and is still in the league. What even is this take. 

Points: 0

#16 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 30, 2020 - 9:44am

Maybe I'm just sensitive as a researcher, but my vote is we make fun of the many, many things that happen each NFL week that ignore analytical wisdom rather than make fun of research that, however flawed, is trying to advance our understanding of the game in a profound way.

It sounds like you don't appreciate your bull being gored.

Points: 0

#27 by dank067 // Nov 30, 2020 - 10:03am

Plus, like Vince mentions, Burke completely invited himself to get roasted by going out of his way to insist that the data proved Donald was a poor run defender and posted a bunch of clips that showed only that Burke had no idea what he was watching. I think he even included a clip of an option play where Donald was the defender the QB was reading. It was as poor of an analysis as anything we roast Troy Aikman for on Sunday afternoons, even if it doesn't mean the metric itself is bad.

Points: 0

#144 by BJR // Dec 01, 2020 - 8:24am

Burke did some great work on his old website (which still exists) back in the 'early' days of football analytics. He introduced me to EPA and WPA, came up with the original 4th down calculator, and produced loads of other interesting articles designed to debunk old footballing myths (similar to Football Outsiders). I was an avid reader of that site, which along with FO, really taught me to question mainstream media narratives.

He has since moved to ESPN, and whilst it's great that ESPN are incorporating analytics into their football coverage, all the low-hanging fruit has now been picked clean. The 4th down battle has been conclusively won. We know running on early downs is generally a bad idea. Play action works, etc, etc. So we are now left with increasingly inaccessible research and obscure metrics, which may be of some value, but are of little use to a casual fan. Add in the often arrogant, dismissive tone, and it doesn't make for a great product anymore. 

Points: 0

#20 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 30, 2020 - 9:52am

But if they have too much of a lull at the wrong point against the wrong team, they're out in the playoffs.

Last year they trailed by at least 10 points in every playoff game. From the point of their largest deficit, they finished those games on 106-21 runs.

Points: 0

#52 by Boots Day // Nov 30, 2020 - 12:00pm

I don't entirely disagree with Aaron's larger point, but this seems like a funny time to bring it up: The Chiefs were on the road against the No. 2 team in DVOA, and said No. 2 team in DVOA never had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead. It would be pretty easy to spin this as a signature win.

Points: 0

#53 by Boots Day // Nov 30, 2020 - 12:00pm

The biggest late-game problem for the Chiefs seemed to be penalties - holding calls on their second-to-last offensive drive, roughing the passer on the last Bucs TD drive. That's mostly just dumb and inopportune, but it doesn't seem to be a consistent problem.

Points: 0

#33 by coremill // Nov 30, 2020 - 11:25am

I actually thought Mahomes' second TD pass was more impressive than the first.  There are plenty of QBs who, given time to set up and step into the throw, can chuck it 60 yards in the air.  But Mahomes is the only guy who can throw a no-look pass 35 yards on a dime off his back foot.  That throw is ridiculous.  

Points: 0

#34 by johonny // Nov 30, 2020 - 11:27am

Is it wrong that I enjoy watching Gase fail so much? I just hope he stays in New York another season. The worst thing that could happen for the NFL is him getting fired and hired to coach/GM the Lions. So, pretty much that is what will happen.

Points: 0

#39 by mehllageman56 // Nov 30, 2020 - 11:39am

In reply to by johonny

Of course you hope he stays there, you're a dolphins fan.  He's not staying, so just hope Woody throws out the GM with the coach.

Points: 0

#49 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 30, 2020 - 11:54am

In reply to by johonny

The worst thing that could happen for the NFL is him getting fired and hired to coach/GM the Lions.

I could sort of see that. Their last coach rose to prominence by riding Peyton Manning and was fired after he left.

\I did think Caldwell was actually a good coach, as opposed to Gase, who is somehow a step down from Patricia.

Points: 0

#96 by johonny // Nov 30, 2020 - 3:13pm

Sadly Jim wouldn't have coached much longer in Detriot. He had to step down in Miami due to health reasons last year. I haven't heard an update on his health since then. I think everyone will be eyeing the JETS QB situation after seeing how well Tannehill did after escaping Gase's bubble screen hell.   

Points: 0

#59 by fyo // Nov 30, 2020 - 12:10pm

In reply to by johonny

Gase never gets a head coaching gig in the NFL again.

Don't get me wrong,  I hope he completes his Tour de AFC East - or starts on a marathon tour of the rest of the league,  just because misery so loves company (even, or perhaps especially, after the fact).

Points: 0

#36 by theslothook // Nov 30, 2020 - 11:35am

My thoughts:

Colts Ten: Pass

Bucs & Chiefs: Brady's numbers looked good this game, but honestly, this is the wrong offense to run with him. Brady is just good enough and the receivers are great enough to make this offense work, but its a suboptimal use of his talents. Brady at his best is an orchestrator of a multi formation offense that uses horizontal option based routes to routinely attack a defense. He should not be in an offense thats asked to routinely air out medium and deep route throws over and over. 


Packers & Bears: Considering who he was facing, this might be one of the very best Arod performances I've seen. It made me wonder if he's not the best qb in football. 

I felt bad for Mitch. Look hes a bad qb. And he looked terrible. But, the amount of hate he gets is purely because two other qbs happened to be good. I have always wondered why Ryan Leaf every year gets dragged through the mud. Some people suggest it's because he had a rotten personality. Fair. But I suspect it's because it makes for a great story. 



Points: 0

#41 by mehllageman56 // Nov 30, 2020 - 11:42am

Tell that to Ken O'Brien, who was actually a decent to good qb.  But Marino this, Marino that, even though he had a winning record against Marino (8-7), and the fact that Chiefs fans probably wished they drafted Eason or O'Brien instead of Blackledge, but no one ever mentions Blackledge.

Points: 0

#43 by big10freak // Nov 30, 2020 - 11:46am

Has very good physical skills.  He’s a tough guy.  Effort is never a question 

have to think with better coaching he could be adequate.  

Points: 0

#46 by theslothook // Nov 30, 2020 - 11:49am

I haven't seen that much of him, but in about 6 or so games across multiple seasons, the general thoughts I have:

His pocket awareness is poor. He just doesn't have a feel for how to navigate a pocket.

His decision making is poor. Won't go into this more in depth

His general feel for the game is clunky. 

In all, he strikes me as a guy who can operate a very scripted offense. He has the ability to make throws and he doesn't lack for aggressiveness like others, but he doesn't feel the game or read the field well enough for any of it to matter. 

Points: 0

#50 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 30, 2020 - 11:56am

Trubisky seems like the kind of guy who would make a great backup QB for an Andy Reid team.

Points: 0

#57 by big10freak // Nov 30, 2020 - 12:07pm

Reid would almost certainly address the decision making gap. 

And then adjust the playcalling to what his guy CAN do.  Versus asking him to do what he cannot 

Points: 0

#60 by Boots Day // Nov 30, 2020 - 12:17pm

Matt Nagy used to be Andy Reid's quarterback coach. He seems to be as qualified as anyone to make a decent QB out of Trubisky. And clearly, he's not been able to do so.

Points: 0

#71 by big10freak // Nov 30, 2020 - 12:40pm

We should not assume the apprentice can match the master 


I just want Trubisky to get another legit shot.  Think he can be ok 

Points: 0

#74 by Steve in WI // Nov 30, 2020 - 1:00pm

Foles was supposed to be better suited to Nagy's system, and he has been just as bad in a small sample. I'm not saying that it's impossible that Nagy turns out to be a good coach, but thus far he's done nothing in Chicago to make me think he's a guy who gets the most out of QBs.

Points: 0

#54 by big10freak // Nov 30, 2020 - 12:01pm

assuming the player has the dedication to the work needed.  And I am not aware of anyone questioning Trubisky's work ethic.


The Bears offensive is not terrible.  There are some skill position players there who can play as well.


I know Chicago is ready to move on (apparently), but I think there are elements there worth investing in legit qb coaching.

Points: 0

#93 by Duke // Nov 30, 2020 - 3:11pm

Look at DeShaun Watson. He was balling out in his first year. Trubisky has never shown that level. John Fox and Matt Nagy may not be good coaches but I don't think they're that worse (if at all) than BoB.

If Trubisky had something, I think he would have shown it, despite the failings around him. At this point I think the best-case scenario would be a poor man's Jared Goff. I would advise against betting on it.

Points: 0

#139 by Bobman // Dec 01, 2020 - 2:30am

I will address Trubisky's value in the simplest possible terms to you can all understand easily:

My wife thinks he's cute.

Me:  He has a moustache like a HS sophomore trying to impress the girls. And you HATE when I go two days without shaving.

Her: No, he's got a a whole facial hair thing, just trimmed close.

Me:  Okay, I think I have chores to do or something.  Let me know when the next game's on.

To recap, Trubisky and I are most definitely NOT on speaking terms.


Points: 0

#143 by dryheat // Dec 01, 2020 - 7:32am

If it makes you feel better, you're probably better at your job than he is at his.

Points: 0

#73 by Steve in WI // Nov 30, 2020 - 12:57pm

I think up until this season, Trubisky took a disproportionate amount of criticism for the failures of the Bears offense. I also think that coaching has failed to maximize his potential. However, four years into his career I've come to the conclusion that his ceiling is borderline good backup/bad starter. There's not even a solid game manager in there. He seems like a nice enough guy and I hope he catches on somewhere else, if he wants to keep playing, but I don't think even Andy Reid could make him into a cromulent starter.

I still think 2020 Trubisky is better than 2020 Foles. And I don't see last night's turnovers as being all that bad from an aggressiveness standpoint. (That first INT was a terrible throw/decision given where the receiver was, although looking at the replay, with Mooney's speed I'm kind of surprised he didn't get separation). They tried Foles as the stable veteran who could make good decisions and manage the game, and guess what? He couldn't do those things and the Bears couldn't move the ball whatsoever the past couple of games. Trubisky turning the ball over multiple times is predictable, but on a night when the defense couldn't stop Rodgers and the Packers, what's the point of playing it safe and losing anyway? I feel like the risk/reward calculation of throwing downfield made was just executed poorly by a QB who isn't good.

Points: 0

#97 by Duke // Nov 30, 2020 - 3:17pm

There were just loads of throws that were very basic--open receiver, no pressure--and he just missed them. And those were the problems that were easily identifiable as a casual fan watching the TV angle--when people analyzed the All-22 and broke down the play design, it was worse. He consistently missed opportunities.

The problems clearly go beyond him, but I thought it was always clear that you wouldn't have a functional offense with him, and I wouldn't have said that about the other members last year.

Points: 0

#133 by theTDC // Nov 30, 2020 - 10:11pm

I've talked many times about how I had no idea why Dwayne Haskins was drafted at all, let alone in the first round, but Mitch Trubisky was kind of the same way. He was like "Mr. 6.5/10" in everything.

6.5/10 accuracy.

6.5/10 arm power.

6.5/10 scrambling.

6.5/10 pocket presence.

Compared to the average 6/10 college quarterback. If someone had told me "oh yeah, Andy Reid loves this guy, wants him in the 6th round," I would have thought, "okay, maybe he had some better games." Or "maybe there's some real gem here, that can be improved upon."

That he was considered worth taking 3rd overall, trading up to get him is just mystifying. Thus far in the pros, he's shown to be exactly the same QB as in college. Which translates into being "Mr. 5/10," compared to NFL quarterbacks.

Points: 0

#95 by Duke // Nov 30, 2020 - 3:13pm

Nor do any of the Bears fans I interact with. I don't hate him; he is who he is, and it's not really his fault that he's not good. I just don't want to keep wasting time on him.

I hate the regime that brought him in, but not him. By all accounts he is a good guy. It's too bad that he doesn't seem to be the guy but that's that.

Points: 0

#47 by andrew // Nov 30, 2020 - 11:52am

One of the stories after the Panthers loss was Bridgewater said the plays were late coming in from the coaches on the drive that ended in the FG to go up 6.  On 3rd down in particular, he said he had only about 6 seconds to look over the defense which didn't give him time to properly assess things, he said if it had come in quicker he probably would have checked to a run given the way the defense was set up..   Seems kind of odd for him to call out his coaches that way but have no reason to doubt him on that.    We probably don't have stats on stuff like that available....

Points: 0

#51 by theslothook // Nov 30, 2020 - 11:57am

Seeing that Gif of Herbert's sneak was hilarious and jaw dropping. 

You see that and you can understand why Eli refused to play there. Yes that was a million years ago, but its still such a Chargers thing to do. They get the qb right, they get the talent around him right and somehow manage to finish sub 500 over and over. 

Seriously, Herbert is a damn good qb already. This team should not be under 500. They seriously need to get a different coaching staff. Like yesterday. 

Points: 0

#84 by ChrisLong // Nov 30, 2020 - 2:24pm

I think there is absolutely zero chance that the sneak portion of that play was called by a coach. They called a pass play. But Herbert noticed there was no one over center and tried to quickly improvise a QB sneak without audibling or otherwise giving a tell to the D. In doing so, he forgot that the center was about to back up into his lap.

Points: 0

#56 by Peregrine // Nov 30, 2020 - 12:07pm


I think the NFL has done the right thing by pushing ahead with games, even if it results in farces such as what happened in Denver and what is happening in Baltimore.

Want everyone in the league to take the pandemic seriously?  Make a head coach play a game that he has no chance to win.  That will get some houses in order.

Points: 0

#67 by rj1 // Nov 30, 2020 - 12:26pm

"The QBs Denver had all tested negative. They weren't allowed to sign anyone and they weren't allowed to suit up an assistant coach. All the QBs weren't wearing a mask in Driskel's vicinity...when players in huddles or on sidelines or in active practices never are. On those QBs for being idiots not following the rules and whoever the offensive assistant coach there supposed to be responsible should be fired. But like most things with this virus, it's a lot of pretending. I'm not going to argue the impetus of the virus and wearing masks, but if this is the standard the NFL expects, then the season should literally be stopped today and no one plays any football from Pop Warner to high school up to pros again until it's all gone, because we have a steady diet of players testing positive and they're all in huddles together breathing hard not wearing a mask during games and during practices. To act like that's fine but 4 guys sitting around a table is not goes into complete dumbassery."

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#66 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 30, 2020 - 12:26pm

Did Denver have no QB on the field for their first snap yesterday? PFR suggests they started with two RBs and no QB.

Wonder when the last time was a team started a game with no QB on the field.

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#68 by Joe Pancake // Nov 30, 2020 - 12:34pm

"I'm envisioning something like the Bears' Caleb Hanie game where they punted every possession."

That was Jimmy Clausen against the Seahawks in 2015:

10 drives, 10 punts.

The Bears waived Clausen a few games later and he landed with the Ravens, so he got another crack at the Seahawks D.  It didn't go much better the second time.  But I wonder how often the same QB played a team twice in a season on different teams.

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#72 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 30, 2020 - 12:46pm

Fritz Pollard, maybe? He was loosely a QB (as much as anyone was in 1925), and he played for three teams that year.

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#70 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 30, 2020 - 12:34pm

I was kicking around QB apocalpti, and considered last year when the Eagles finished the season with their 70 year-old emergency QB playing with broken ribs because they had no one behind him -- their next best potential QB (Greg Ward) couldn't do it, because that would remove their best remaining WR (Greg Ward). Their best play would be having him bounce a pass off a defender so he could catch it himself.

This got me to wondering about this scenario: Could a QB about to take a hit throw a ball upward, but forward, with himself as the intended receiver and use the incoming hit to generate a DPI?

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#77 by fyo // Nov 30, 2020 - 1:31pm

Trying to twist the rules into obscene poses is always fun, but you wouldn't be able to get DPI. At most it would be holding, since it would presumably occur within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. 

Considering the harsh rules on roughing, it almost seems like anything that isn't roughing isn't going to be illegal contact on a receiver either. Almost. 

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#92 by DGL // Nov 30, 2020 - 2:53pm

In week 5 of the 1977 season, the Steelers had two active QBs (Terry Bradshaw and Mike Kruczek), and when both got injured, DB Tony Dungy came in at QB and went 3-8, becoming one of few players to both complete a pass and intercept a pass in the same game.

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#129 by justanothersteve // Nov 30, 2020 - 9:16pm

In 1967, RB Tom Matte started at QB for the Colts for their last regular season game and their only game in the playoffs. Both Unitas and Cuozzo were lost to injury just before the end of the regular season. 

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#76 by Steve in WI // Nov 30, 2020 - 1:19pm

That was the most lopsided 16 point game I have ever witnessed. It felt like garbage time from about the middle of the 2nd quarter onward. It felt like nothing so much as the 2014 primetime embarrassment when the Packers put 42 on the Bears in the first half, also coming off a bye week. I hope this one results in a new GM and coach, but I don't know if that's going to happen and in any case I don't know why Ted Phillips would hire the right GM on his 4th try when the others have been disasters.

Truthfully, I think the Bears need a full rebuild. This defense might have been able to win a championship with a league-average offense in 2018 or 2019, but they're getting older and more injury-prone and I have zero confidence that they could cobble together a league average offense in the next year or two anyway. If they had a solid QB and a lot of holes around him, the argument would be that you don't rebuild because consistent QB play is so hard to find...but this regime has thrown everything at the wall and been unable to find even mediocre QB play. There are objectively good players on this roster, but what point is there in keeping them here as they get older and more expensive? If they weren't going to extend Robinson (and now, I neither see the point in doing that nor why he would want to stay, unless they are the highest bidder for his services by far), they should have traded him at the deadline.

I think this offseason, any trade should be on the table, with an emphasis on getting rid of good defensive players that other teams might give up significant picks for. The Bears aren't going to contend for a championship in the next 3 years no matter what. They can either pull the trigger on a rebuild and try to get the pain out of the way, or they can continue to get older and more expensive as the defense declines.

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#79 by big10freak // Nov 30, 2020 - 1:45pm

But I understand your reasoning 

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#85 by TomC // Nov 30, 2020 - 2:25pm

It's not quite as grim when you consider that many of the Bears' best defensive players are young. They should absolutely try to trade Mack and Hicks (and maybe even Fuller---damn, he was in my "young" group, but it turns out he's about to turn 29), but Goldman, Nichols, Smith, Jackson, Johnson are all 26 or younger.

I will admit to having been in favor of the Quinn move, but that's the one they're going to regret the most when the wrecking ball comes.

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#90 by Steve in WI // Nov 30, 2020 - 2:49pm

Young players could bring back more valuable draft picks, though.

I guess it depends on whether they go full rebuild or just try to move some salary to free up cap space for other acquisitions, and pick up a couple relatively inconsequential draft picks in the bargain. I believe the Mack trade would have to be the former, because they don't get much if any relief on his 2021 cap hit even if they trade him.

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#81 by theslothook // Nov 30, 2020 - 2:00pm

I think that decision is understandable but I'd go the other way. There is talent on both sides of the ball. They just suck at qb and there may be options in the offseason to improve on that. 

This isn't last year's panthers that was starring at the abyss. 

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#86 by ChrisLong // Nov 30, 2020 - 2:28pm

Hmmm who would be the best option for them? Barring a draft pick (I know very little about the college QB landscape), I think Jameis would be the most interesting option. Cam has looked bad this year. Fitzpatrick is a stopgap.

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#87 by theslothook // Nov 30, 2020 - 2:31pm

I guess thats true. Not really sure what options they have at qb besides the draft. But it sucks that they are literally one player away from being very interesting

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#89 by Steve in WI // Nov 30, 2020 - 2:44pm

How much talent do they really have on offense? Allen Robinson is a free agent so he'd cost a ton to re-sign. Besides Whitehair and Daniels, they need a whole new offensive line. Maybe they have something in Kmet, who has not been impressive but rookie tight ends rarely are. Mooney looks like a good late-round pick at WR. Other than that, what do they have on offense?

There might be opportunities to improve on QB, technically, since it would be hard to be worse than 2020 Trubisky/Foles, but outside of hitting a lottery ticket on a midround rookie I don't see a path to a surefire starter. I'm all for taking a cheap flyer on another team's reject but I expect that to fail way more often than it succeeds.

There's also the issue of the salary cap...depending on how much it goes down, they may be really strapped for space and that would impact the ability to sign a free agent to shore up a needy position, even if there was a good FA available.

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#91 by theslothook // Nov 30, 2020 - 2:53pm

I get your points overall. I would say its amazing how much better your offense will look once you have competency at qb. 

I think the broader point would be, it feels extreme to sell off all of your defensive assets because you have a terrible suck at qb. That's going to be true whether you have a defense or not. I suppose selling off the assets is effectively a one or two year tank job to get the top qb in the draft. Even that approach is fraught with problems because you could be win just enough that you don't secure the first or second overall pick and your stuck once again either reaching for a qb or rolling with the tank once again.


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#100 by Duke // Nov 30, 2020 - 3:25pm

...the issue is that, aside from having bad QB play, they also don't really have cap room. So trying to improve in that area is gonna force a lot of decisions that they can't support.

At a quick glance, Mariota signed for about $9 mil. Trying to add someone at that price would almost certainly mean they lose Robinson, and probably other players, and means that they can't really address other problem areas like the OLine.

They're loaded down with some really bad contracts. I agree with Steve that the best plan is to move the older defensive talent, try to build a core, plan how to get your next QB, and wait for the bad contracts to run out. It's painful but not more so than the current run, and it has a chance of working.

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#103 by dank067 // Nov 30, 2020 - 3:41pm

Yeah, I think they're just going to have to spend 2021 in purgatory, probably entering the season with Nick Foles as the starting QB. If the covid/cap situation creates another anomaly like how the Patriots signed Cam Newton for $1M, they could probably jump in on something like that. But they just won't have much flexibility until 2022.

I actually wonder how easily they'll be able to replace Pace and Nagy. It seems like a tough sell - the GM probably won't be able to really begin making real moves until the 2022 offseason, and the coach may essentially be in charge of a lame duck roster in 2021. Then again, there are only so many HC/GM jobs in the NFL.

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#121 by Steve in WI // Nov 30, 2020 - 6:12pm

GM-wise, the Bears have historically been patient (some would say overly patient) with GMs. Ryan Pace had a 14-34 record after 3 seasons and there wasn't a hint of suggestion that the team might move on from him; whether he got to overuse the excuse that the team he inherited was devoid of talent is debatable, but he was never on the hot seat. I think a prospective GM could feel reasonably confident that they'll get a fair shake at rebuilding the roster and not be blamed if bad contracts hurt the team in 2021-23.

As far as the coach, I really like the idea of letting the new GM decide whether to fire or keep Nagy. For the reasons you mention, they may want to stick with Nagy for at least one more year based on who they believe they could get for 2021. I just don't want ownership to dictate that the new GM must keep Nagy.

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#122 by Steve in WI // Nov 30, 2020 - 6:32pm

Selling off all the defensive assets would definitely be a risk not many GMs would take, and it's not necessarily what I would advocate. My position is more that I don't think any individual player should be untouchable, even the young ones. It would depend on their scouting of particular players and their predictions for the next few years, how easy they might be to replace, and what a team was offering. I certainly wouldn't give up Roquan Smith or Eddie Jackson for the sake of tanking.

I also want to distinguish between a full rebuild and tanking. It's not that I think the Bears need to try to be bad enough to get the first or second pick (although if it naturally works out that way, all the better. And it is so painful that this year's team could very easily be 1-10 instead of 5-6, and positioned for a top pick right now). It's that I think they are far enough away from real championship contention in the next 3 years that they need to stop thinking that one position (even QB) is going to put them there, and more importantly that stopgap solutions that mortgage the future are wise.

I think it's possible that they could find a solid QB and build a truly competitive team in a few years even if they never earn a pick in the top 10. It's harder that way, obviously, but plenty of first round QBs who don't go at the very top of the draft turn out to be good. And it's not all that costly to trade up within the first round for a player you've identified as worth it, unless you're talking about a consensus first overall pick like Trevor Lawrence. I hesitate to use Mahomes as the example because I'm not trying to imply that it's easy to find QBs like him at any point in the draft, but if you just look at the draft value the Chiefs gave up to move all the way from 27 to 10, it wasn't that much (a 3rd round pick and next year's 1st).

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#101 by ChrisLong // Nov 30, 2020 - 3:25pm

Didn't realize Robinson was a FA, that will be a big loss. He's a great player hobbled by poor QBs.

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#98 by Duke // Nov 30, 2020 - 3:19pm

They are already pretty capped out and it's probably not gonna go up next year.

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#88 by theslothook // Nov 30, 2020 - 2:34pm

Yesterday's Colts performance was bad for me personally and other fans of the Colts, but it was also bad for the league imo.

The Colts defense is supposed to be good. But they got shredded badly yesterday. The Bears defense is supposed to be good, but they got absolutely toasted. The Bucs defense is supposed to be good but the Chiefs went up and down the field on them all day.

I don't quite know what the reason why offenses have been gaslighting defenses this year in particular, but the trend has been there for decades now. At some point, the NFL needs to pass something to help defenses because at some point, the best defense really is going to be just go all offense all the time. Go for every 4th and medium short of being in your own 20s and going for 2 every single time. Fantasy football fans don't care, but this is not fun for other fans. No one cares about the probowl for that reason and we're just eye rolling at these eye popping numbers. 

The game is just tilted so badly in favor of offense that it's ruining the product for me anyways. 


Points: 0

#99 by rj1 // Nov 30, 2020 - 3:24pm

Here's an idea. Declare the Chiefs, Packers, and Titans quarterbacks all ineligible and they're forced to play one of their practice squad wide receivers at the position.

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#102 by theslothook // Nov 30, 2020 - 3:26pm

I get the sarcasm in your post, but this issue extends beyond those teams. 

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#105 by rj1 // Nov 30, 2020 - 3:47pm

Setting aside my axe-grinding at the bullsh*t that was yesterday's Broncos game and the league's virtue signalling bullsh*t, if anything I think the game is actually better than it was a few years ago. A few years ago, the game was to me entirely one-dimensional. That one dimension was the passing game, which is good if you were one of the 8 or 9 teams in the league that had a good quarterback. If you were one of the rest, your only chance was an awe-inspiring defense or go 2-14 and hope you draft a good one. The notion that you can have 32 teams and ever expect more than say 12 to excel in a one-dimensional game, not going to happen. Nowadays the game's at least somewhat multi-dimensional because there's at least more than one type of quarterback that can succeed, aided by everyone in that past generation of QB's getting old. I think as this article says about Goff as a surrogate that recent incoming college QB's are just less adept at reading a defense plays a factor as well. I remember one of the knocks on Chris Rix when he was Florida State QB was he looked around and if nothing was obvious, he just ran. That's par for the course for a lot of current NFL QBs.

I still think the designed run game is not what it could be if you got a sharp offensive coordinator mind that knew linemen inside and out and be an A+ scouting them (hard for most because it's not easily quantifiable). Defense-wise, there's something to figure out there. 

Points: 0

#107 by theslothook // Nov 30, 2020 - 3:57pm

The only difference I've seen from years past is that offenses have embraced the read option and qb mobility. To that extent, its made the run game somewhat functional. 

The issue is, offenses are still destroying defenses on a yearly basis. I am not sure what defines good defense these days. The Chiefs "only" scored 27 points, but they hemorrhage yards and big plays and it sure felt like luck that the scored didn't get out of hand in that one. 

I think we are at a sorry state of the nfl when a good defense is expected to surrender no more than 40 points. That's essentially the world we live in now. 

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#110 by rj1 // Nov 30, 2020 - 4:17pm

There's an easy way to stop a team from scoring 40 points-never let them have the ball and shorten the game. This might sound like a stupid point, but it's why I think a lot of the pass vs. run argument of how the pass is "better DVOA" than a run is mathematically correct but philosophically wrong. I think methodical run-first offense that grinds the game to a halt is the greatest thing ever from a win-first perspective. All you have to do is get 10 yards every 3 plays. You get nothing extra for accomplishing that in 1 play versus 3. If it takes you the better part of 2 minutes of game time versus 15 seconds of game time to get your next first down, so what?

Imagine if you will an offense that could do designed runs and get 3.5 yards every play and never fumble. That team would win every single game. I have in my head this vision of a Super Bowl being played. There's the super long halftime show, you deferred the opening kickoff to receive in the 3rd, take your touchback, start at the 25, and just start rolling downfield in 3 to 5 yard chunks. You never go out of bounds or stop the clock, just grind away. At the end of this 15-play plus touchdown drive you would have killed most of the 3rd quarter and suddenly your opposing QB has not touched the ball in real time for more than an hour.

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#113 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 30, 2020 - 4:50pm

This game was played in 1991.


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#119 by theslothook // Nov 30, 2020 - 5:35pm

The issue I have with this is it's not just the scoring totals that offend me, but the ease with which offenses are able to rack up yardage up and down the field. Your solution is just a variant on the axiom that the best defense is a good offense.

Right now the NFL looks like the inverse of the 1970s dead ball era. The NFL didn't like the way that league was run so it liberalized the passing rules. I'm not sure what rules would fix this but I'm in favor of doing something to give some edge back to defenses, instead of just trading passing offensive success with running offensive success so that the whole offense defense equation remains the same.

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#123 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 30, 2020 - 7:10pm

Offensive holding and OPI confer a loss of down. All illegal forward passes are loss of down.

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#125 by Eddo // Nov 30, 2020 - 7:27pm

I agree that the lack of loss of down penalties on offense, compared to the number of automatic first down penalties on defense, is a huge imbalance that's easy to fix.

My gut feel is that adding loss of down to ten-yard offensive penalties is too punitive though.  I'd support either (a) add loss of down to all current ten-yard offensive penalties and also reduce the yardage to five or (b) remove automatic first down from all defensive penalties, and only give the first if the yardage is enough.  There is nothing more frustrating than when a defense drives the offense backwards on first and second down only for an illegal contact penalty on third and fifteen to result in a new set of downs.

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#126 by jheidelberg // Nov 30, 2020 - 8:06pm

Since the Ravens didn't play yesterday, I will add them to the list.  The Ravens have "held" the Chiefs to 33 and 34 points in the 2019 and 2020 game.  The solution for the Ravens is to score 35 points, not the football that we want.

I believe that the Ravens will not win another championship until they can win a game 35-34 against the Chiefs, Green Bay and others.

The issue is that to protect players and save the game from the CTE lawsuits, the rules had to be changed.  We will never see "old style" football again.  We can not have players ruining their lives to play the game we love.  Watch any old game on NFL network (my favorite is the 2000 Super Bowl).  See how many hits you can spot in a game that would not be legal now.  

You do need an automatic first down with defensive holding, illegal contact and pass interference.  If there were no first down, you would always drag a guy down when you are beaten on a long yards to go situation, well short of the sticks.  I'll give you five yards on 3rd or 4th and 10 or more instead of letting a receiver go past the yard marker unhindered once he has a step on me and take a chance on the next play.  Also, you would always pass interfere (if you could get there in time) on a pass behind the line of scrimmage.

I agree with Eddo, about not having a loss of down on offensive penalties, but for a different reason.  This would put the game in the hands of the referees.  So many games would be decided by non-challengeable holding penalties.  I know the counter argument is that so many games are decided by the unchallengeable defensive holding, illegal contact, pass interference, roughing the passer, and hitting a defenseless receiver calls.   Despite the counterargument, I do not want to add to the referees burden of deciding games on judgment calls.

I have noticed on a couple of plays this year that after a defensive offside resulted in 1st and 5, that the defensive team intentionally had 12 men in the huddle, giving up 5 yards, to get it back to 1st and 10.  Offenses will learn to decline this penalty.  This should also be done on second and inches although, I have yet to see it.

In the old days "after the play was over personal foul offense"  lead to 1st and 25 if the play had resulted in a 1st down for the offense.  Now it just moves the ball back 15 yards and results in a 1st and 10.  Which of course, does nothing to stop the drive.

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#131 by theslothook // Nov 30, 2020 - 10:00pm

I would be in favor of making illegal contact a 10-yard penalty but not granting an immediate first down.

I would also be in favor of increasing the contact yardage for defensive backs from 5 to 10.


I would also widen the tackle box for intentional grounding and force the pass to reach LOS. Maybe the box extends to the wide hashes.



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#134 by mrh // Nov 30, 2020 - 10:29pm

Personally, I'd eliminate the illegal contact penalty entirely.  It's poorly/inconsistently officiated and just gives refs one more thing to keep track of.  I know what the Pats did to the Colts many years ago, but that's the price of giving the defense a fighting chance.  I'd rather see the refs spend their time calling defensive holding and OPI better.

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#140 by Bobman // Dec 01, 2020 - 2:40am

There is so much hand-fighting (which is... legal, I guess) on every play, how the hell does one decide who instigated and got the better of it?  The D is penalized at least 2/3 of the time, probably closer to 80%.  An OPI push off needs to look like a mover installing a refrigerator in order to draw a flag--I promise you, a guy the size and strength of Claypool and Metcalf can get plenty of thrust with a short-distance push without locking their elbows.  A lot of pass windows are miniscule, so creating even a foot of distance when a DB rocks back to adjust his balance can make or break a play--you don't have to throw him out of the club (to use a Gronk phrase).

That really frustrates me (along with WRs legally blocking while a bubble screen is in the air if the pass is behind the LOS but still a forward pass).  They are preventing a D player from potentially getting to the ball--how is that not OPI?

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#124 by dbostedo // Nov 30, 2020 - 7:24pm

"I'm not sure what rules would fix this but I'm in favor of doing something to give some edge back to defenses..."

12 defenders at all times. 

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#104 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 30, 2020 - 3:42pm

the best defense really is going to be just go all offense all the time.

While no one speaks about it openly, it's pretty clear in the last few years that the best defense is injuring the opponent's QB1. We all saw the Saints game.

\and Kimoing and Pollarding are verbs for a reason.

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#106 by dank067 // Nov 30, 2020 - 3:55pm

One week can just be variance - the Bears defense just finished playing five consecutive games against top-10 offenses by DVOA. They were good-to-very good in the first four games before the dam finally broke against the Packers. The Colts looked a lot better against the same Titans team just two weeks ago. The Bucs defense (and offense, for that matter) has swung wildly between highs and lows all season.

Not to say I disagree with your larger point that the game is too tilted in favor of offense.

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#108 by theslothook // Nov 30, 2020 - 3:58pm

Sure, last night was the apotheosis of offensive domination. But like you pointed out, the larger trends have been going on for a long long time. The offensive numbers in today's nfl, irrespective of last night, don't even resemble the game 10 years ago, let alone 20 years ago. And they feel like a different sport than the 90s and 80s. 

Points: 0

#141 by Bobman // Dec 01, 2020 - 2:46am

Maybe it's just the shoulder pads?

Getting back to yesterday's IND-TEN game, just think back to the 2006 Jags game.  Bob Sanders came back eventually and Rob Morris replaced an OLB whose unusual name I can't recall and it worked out. The stout D will return sooner than later. Castonzo's knee may not (and Kelly's neck?). Indy is lucky Fuller and Roby are out for the Texans this week while they are still assembling the replacements.  In two weeks time they should be close to 100% again (for this time of year).  I'm kind of hankering to see what Parris Campbell can contribute in the final few games and hoping he's 2020's Bob Sanders in a "where the hell did this guy come from?" sort of way. 

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#109 by Duke // Nov 30, 2020 - 3:59pm

FWIW, the Bears were without Akiem Hicks yesterday, and for whatever reason he seems to be the linchpin to that defense. I don't have the splits, but when he's out they seem to go from top 5 to middle of the pack. None of their other defenders seem to have that effect when they're out, and I don't know why.

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#111 by TomC // Nov 30, 2020 - 4:38pm

They were also badly outschemed / outcoached, which also happened in the Detroit, Atlanta, and Indianapolis games. 

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#112 by ChrisS // Nov 30, 2020 - 4:48pm

What is "RBSDM", it had at least 2 mentions in audibles?   "CBS Miami switched over to the end of the Colts game, which they then stuck with even past the start of the national broadcast." They showed 3 kneel-downs and then 4 minutes of commercials instead of the game, WTF.

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#142 by Bobman // Dec 01, 2020 - 2:49am

Yeah, that was nuts.  As a Colts fan in Seattle, I never get to see my team enough but even I asked my wife (who used to work in TV) what the hell they were doing and why?  It's like feeding a kid asparagus ice cream--a great way to turn casual fans off the game by showing the meaningless epilogue of a blowout. 

"Joey, you want some more ice cream?"

"Dear God, no! Can't I just do some more homework instead?"

Points: 0

#120 by BigRichie // Nov 30, 2020 - 5:51pm

As a West Coaster whose best NFL friend is a HUGE! Rams fan, I've seen tons of Aaron Donald through the years.

1. The Aaron Donald of '18 sold out on the pass every snap. Each and every snap. None of the Rams' stunts were designed as run stunts, not involving Aaron, anyway. Each of those were designed to get Aaron into the backfield. That is how an interior lineman gets 45.5 tackles for loss along with the insane number of QB hits (well, that and great talent)

That is also a really crappy way to play run defense. There were regularly huge gaps at the line of scrimmage. The Rams made a conscious tradeoff: Greatest ever penetration by an interior lineman at the cost of leaving a single huge gap in the run defense. You clowns are giving Aaron all the credit for the one while pretending the other didn't even exist.

2. Last year the Rams started playing that more conventionally, Aaron actually playing a run gap in possible running situations. This season's been more of the same. In trade his backfield hits have gone way down, too. Myself, I think that's a very good trade, especially when playing against better teams.

I think Burke basically had/has it right. Aaron's gone from 'ridiculously greatest interior backfield penetrator ever + poor run defender' to 'best interior penetrator in the game today while also still (now) being average against the run'. An incredibly valuable combination, just short of the NFL God (oh; sorry, god) that Vince has him at.

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#136 by theTDC // Dec 01, 2020 - 12:28am

Really don't agree with this. Donald gets into the backfield because he beats his man, whether that's versus the run or pass. The same is true for JJ Watt, especially back a few years ago, when he was better. The reason the Rams had big holes in the run game, was because their linebackers sucked. 

And Burke is just objectively wrong. His own tape shows that he doesn't understand what Donald's responsibilities are for any given play. As for Donald's stunts "not being designed versus the run," well so what? 

Furthermore, he is in absolutely no way an "average run defender," nor would anyone expect him to. Sure, he's 265 lbs at DT, but he's the strongest man on the Rams, and has arguably the best bullrush in the league. So it would be really weird if he was merely an average run defender.

And he's not.

EDIT: The more I watch of Burke's analysis, the more hilariously stupid it is. Like, this guy does not understand basic gap responsibilities. Donald is absolutely dominating his gap, but then he gets penalized by Burke, because the running back takes the other gap. Like, dude, that's the Linebackers job. The Rams LB Corps has sucked for a long time. They would still suck even if they didn't have a HOF destroying tons of runs in front of them.

For those who haven't seen this, it's like you just can't even believe that someone would put this analysis out there in the public.

For those who don't want to click the link. Donald absolutely destroys his block, and forces the runner, Matt Breida, to make a hard cutback, making a good play to get back to the line of scrimmage.

This is his example of Donald "losing," on a play. Reading his analysis is this weird out of body experience.

Points: 0

#137 by Craigo // Dec 01, 2020 - 1:05am

But damn, that clip was 180 degrees from the description. He wins his gap and forces a cutback but the NT was blocked out, one LB was completely fooled by motion, another LB looks like he's going to cut the run off for a short gain but stops to take on a blocker away from the play, and a DB overshoots while coming up to support. Five defenders in the GIF and the only one who does his job is downgraded.  

But we should probably just take the word of a fourth-rate ESPN analyst and an internet rando.

Points: 0

#145 by BigRichie // Dec 01, 2020 - 12:43pm

It's you two (you and the following guy) who understand nothing about run defense. You don't "win" your gap, that's entirely nonsensical. You hold it, yes hopefully a yard or so past the line of scrimmage, and then the runner has nowhere to cut back to or toward.

In '18 Donald tried to slice into the backfield every play, just as the scheme called for. Even when he disrupted the run it still left that one huge hole whenever the runner managed to dodge that disruption. And if he didn't win, or simply sliced away from rather than toward where the run was called to go, yes you then have that big gap.

If you just watch the line play, Donald is now playing the run in standard fashion, often enough anyway. If you're incapable of watching line play, just notice the stupid stats. The Rams' run defense is much better than it was back in '18, and Donald's backfield hits are way down from their 'other galaxy' level too.

Points: 0

#138 by Bobman // Dec 01, 2020 - 1:52am

THIS WEEK you lead with the Colts....

(sobs quietly in the corner)

((Then has a flashback to the 2nd Jacksonville game in 2006.  You know the one, where MJD said afterwards "the only thing that stopped us was the end zone."))

(((Smiles, just a little.)))

Points: 0

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